Home Education The White House outlines key COVID prevention strategies for this school year

The White House outlines key COVID prevention strategies for this school year

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As students return to schools for their third full year of schooling in the pandemic era, President Joe Biden’s administration is focusing on aggressive vaccination and testing efforts, as well as improving air quality, to protect school communities from the COVID-19 virus.

The White House released bulletin for school Aug. 16 with information on COVID-19 safety best practices and resources for districts as they begin another school year. The information came a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on COVID-19 for schoolsrepealing the “testing to stay” and quarantine requirements that have governed schools in response to the pandemic for the past two-plus years.

According to the CDC’s new guidelines, schools are encouraged to let community input guide safety strategies, recommending masks only in areas with “high levels of community transmission.” As of Aug. 11, 40 percent of counties, districts and territories had high levels of COVID-19, according to the CDC.

In its newsletter, the White House followed the CDC’s lead by downplaying masking and quarantine and instead focusing on vaccination, testing and air quality as key prevention strategies.

“I am confident that with the support of America’s Rescue Plan and other federal resources, we can keep all of our children across the country safe, healthy and educated on a path to success,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Vaccines and boosters are the “first line of defense”

School districts must have a robust plan to ensure that all teachers and students who want to be vaccinated can do so, the White House said.

Vaccines are available for everyone 6 months of age and older, and boosters are available for everyone 5 years of age and older. The White House is urging districts to use vaccines as a “first line of defense” against the virus, ensuring students, staff and families know their options. (CDC and White House guidance does not recommend requiring students to be vaccinated against the virus, but directs districts to encourage students to get vaccinated.)

The Biden administration plans to work with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association to encourage members to get a COVID-19 booster this fall. CDC has a variety of resources, including a “Booster Tool”, a COVID-19 Vaccines Pageand Vaccines.gov, that everyone has information on who is eligible for boosters and how to access them. AFT and NEA will also emphasize the importance of educators age 50 and older getting a second booster if they haven’t already.

The White House used the ballot as an opportunity to urge school districts to host vaccine clinics. Schools can use funding from America’s Rescue Plan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of vaccine clinics, and the CDC has released own guide for schools planning vaccination clinics.

Testing for COVID-19 remains a key prevention strategy

In its new guidelines, the CDC has scaled back testing recommendations, eliminating the popular “test to stay” strategy that allowed students to stay in the classroom after exposure to the virus as long as they get tested periodically. Instead, the health agency recommended diagnostic testing for anyone showing symptoms of the virus. He also recommended the use of screening tests for high-risk activities such as contact sports and early childhood education programs for schools in areas with high community transmission of the virus.

In its news release, the White House emphasized testing as a strategy to protect students from the virus. The Biden administration plans to distribute 5 million over-the-counter rapid tests and 5 million PCR swabs, as well as additional rapid point-of-care tests over the next year.

Districts can order the tests until January 2023, according to the fact sheet. Schools can also use funding from the CDC’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Program, which has allocated $10 billion to K-12 schools to pay for the tests, according to the news release.

Funding available to improve air quality

Schools can still use America’s Rescue Plan dollars to pay for air quality improvements in their buildings. According to the fact sheet, the funds can be used to cover the cost of inspections, repairs, upgrades and replacements of HVAC systems. The money can also go towards air conditioners, fans, portable air purifiers and germicidal UV light systems, as well as window and door repairs.

The administration plans to work with HVAC professional associations to provide expert guidance and technical support to improve indoor air quality in schools.

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Energy also plan to recognize school districts that make “excellent efforts to improve indoor air quality” through the Department of Energy. “Effective and healthy schools” company over the following months. The departments plan to release recognition criteria in the coming weeks, according to a news release.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has a set of resources that schools can use to improve air quality, including his Challenge “Clean air in buildings” and a guide to indoor air quality in schools. CDC provides ventilation control through it an interactive school ventilation tool.

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