New CDC guidelines impact COVID-19 routine ahead of first day of school

PITTSBURGH — With a new school year comes new changes — specifically, a new round of COVID-19 guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed recommendations and is no longer requiring people to stay 6 feet away from each other. It is also dropping guidance around the “test-to-stay” strategy, where students exposed to the virus could remain in schools as long as they test negative.

“If you’re exposed, you don’t need to quarantine, but make sure you wear a well-fitted mask like an N-95. And if you can, take three rapid tests every 48 hours,” said Dr. Matt Moffa, director of the Infection Prevention Division at West Penn Hospital.

Some public health officials think allowing students to return without proof of a negative COVID-19 test could lead to outbreaks in schools. We asked Dr. Moffa to weigh in on the safest option.

“Do a rapid test on Day 6 and every 48 hours, and once you have two negative tests, then go back to school,” Moffa said.

In Allegheny County, the CDC reports more than 70% of people are fully vaccinated, with nearly 84% receiving at least one dose. With children under the age of 5 now able to get vaccinated, experts said the new recommendations focus on keeping kids in the classroom.

Channel 11 spoke with families from around the area who said they’re looking forward to seeing a sense of normalcy as students head back to school. However, they still hope that everyone uses common sense.

“I would like to see things go back to normal. I don’t know if they can. I am a little hesitant about kids going and being close if they haven’t gotten the shots,” said Judy Fleischel, a former teacher from Glenshaw.

While masks are likely to remain optional at schools nationwide, parents we spoke with said they did see other precautions in place at orientation at their kids’ schools. Many had mixed reaction to the new recommendations, saying they want things to return to the “real normal” but hope that everyone makes smart decisions.

“You have to rip the Band-Aid off. They have to be in school. They need to be learning as normally as they can, ... as long as everyone can use common sense. And if they feel like their child is a threat, then (they need) to take those precautions. If not, then yes, life should absolutely go on,” said Ashley Bodenmiller.

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