With the falling number of new infections and increasing vaccinations, more states and communities are planning resumption or expansion of in-person learning, following a hiatus of over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More States Plan Resumption Of In-Person Learning As Covid Cases Drop
On Wednesday, the North Carolina governor, according to an announcement, agreed on a bill brought by lawmakers to do away with capacity limits from high and middle schools.
The main school district, Los Angeles, struck a deal with its teaching staff to resume classroom instruction for many of its youngest students by April. Also, high schools in New York City’s are scheduled to reopen on 22 March or earlier, as other schools in the city did earlier.
Further, other state leaders in Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon said they had ordered or expected all in-person instruction in schools to resume in weeks or even days.
The development follows the easing of restrictions and rules by the states, which Texas followed. Texas on Wednesday withdrew its mask mandate statewide and allowed businesses to resume full capacity operations. The move drew calls for caution from public health professionals who pointed out to the unwarranted haste in dropping the rules, especially in the backdrop of the possibility of a spike from highly contagious variants in only some weeks’ time.
But if it was the time for anything to reopen, it was for schools, according to the Centers for Disease Control director who spoke on ABCs, Good Morning America.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC that schools should be the first places to reopen. She added, if schools were not open, she believed other places need not be opened as getting children back to school was the need of the hour.
The CDC had come out with guidance in the past few weeks about securing teachers and children’s safe return to school.
In the guidance, vaccination of teachers had not been insisted upon before their return to class, but it had recommended that teachers be prioritized for the shots. In most states, teachers could now be vaccinated, and they would be eligible across all 50 states by Monday.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services came out with new indoor visitation recommendations. The recommendations require that nursing homes allow responsible visitation indoors, irrespective of residents’ or visitors’ vaccination status.
CMS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Fleisher said in a statement that CMS recognized the physical, emotional and psychological toll from prolonged separation and isolation from family suffered by residents of nursing homes and their families.
Fleisher added that was the reason now, with the administration of millions of vaccines to staff and nursing home residents and the significant drop in the number of COVID cases in nursing homes, CMS visitation guidance was being updated to help more families meet safely.
CMS added that the visitation might need to be limited for residents with a confirmed case of Covid-19, quarantined residents, and residents who were unvaccinated and living in facilities with less than 70% of residents vaccinated and counties having higher than 10% positivity rate.
In a report last week, The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said that US nursing homes had seen new coronavirus cases drop to their lowest level after CMS started tracking cases last year in May.
Meanwhile, commentators point out that Texas was not the only state that aimed to end the mask mandate. According to the governor’s office, Utah planned to do away with its mask rule on 10 April.
At least 16 states had no mask mandates now, and some others, including Alabama, are set to join that list within weeks.