The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has quietly released detailed reopening guidance for schools, child care facilities, restaurants and mass transit systems as states have already started reopening businesses over the past few weeks.
The 60-page set of recommendations encourages communities to use coronavirus transmission rates to determine whether to reopen, adding that restrictions should remain in some locations for now.
The guidance was released without media attention over the weekend after reported delays and internal administration debate about the recommendations.
The White House had originally shelved the recommendations, calling them “overly specific,” The Associated Press reported last week. Following the AP’s report, the administration released six checklists to assist local leaders in deciding how to reopen certain aspects of life in communities.
“This guidance sets forth a menu of safety measures, from which establishments may choose those that make sense for them in the context of their operations and local community,” the new guidance says.
The recommendations present a three-step approach to reopening after the CDC had published guidance for determining a community's readiness based on the transmission rate.
The AP's draft of the guidance recommended actions for local governments to take in each phase described in previous CDC advice. But the published version suggests different actions during "Steps 1-3" without explicitly saying whether those steps align with the phases previously laid out or when a community is ready to move to each step.
Instead, the new CDC guidance says actions should be taken in communities with “low levels” of coronavirus spread and “with confidence that the incidence of infection is genuinely low.”
The guidance suggests that schools remain closed during step one, but can run in-person instruction with “enhanced social distancing” actions in step two.
Social distancing suggestions include keeping desks at least six feet apart, having lunch in classrooms, staggering arrival times, requiring cloth masks for staff, disinfecting schools daily and mandating daily temperature screenings if feasible, among other guidance.
The most debated part of the recommendations was reportedly guidance over houses of worship, which this published version does not include. An administration official told The Washington Post that more guidance on religious services may still be coming.