DASH Partner Update – March 2021

Division of Adolescent and School Health: Healthy Youth. Successful Futures.

Dear Partners,

Over the past year, we have all seen schools take center stage. This spotlight has meant increased responsibility for schools and school staff. It has also meant increased dialogue about how to get students back into school buildings safely.

On January 21st, President Biden signed an executive order directing the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide guidance for safely reopening and operating schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education. I was thrilled to see the inclusion of mental health and social-emotional well-being in this order.

We realized early on in the pandemic that school closures and the time students would spend outside of classrooms would have implications on students’ mental health. Last summer CDC began leveraging our existing school health program model to improve student connections to mental health services and supports and to implement strategies to improve students’ connection to their school communities during a time of virtual learning. We are supporting students where they are, whether virtually, in-person, or hybrid.

Mitigation and vaccination are important tools to help get students back into school buildings. CDC is continually reviewing the evolving evidence on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in K-12 schools, as well as the latest science on the effectiveness of different prevention strategies within schools. Last week the K-12 Operational Strategy was updated to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms and now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. Earlier this month, HHS issued a directive that all states make Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. And, these individuals can now get their COVID-19 vaccine at more than 9,000 pharmacy locations nationwide as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how vital schools are to healthy adolescents and communities. Thank you for everything you have done over the past year to ensure that our Nation’s youth remain supported, connected, and able to thrive.

Best,
Kathleen

Kathleen A. Ethier, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Adolescent and School Health
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What's New at CDC?
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Updates and Resources
  • Updated COVID-19 School Operational Strategy
    CDC updated the Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention on Friday, March 19th to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms. CDC now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. This updated guidance is part of CDC’s existing resources for K-12 schools to open and remain open for in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the release of the Operational Strategy on February 12, 2021, CDC has continually reviewed the evolving evidence on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in K-12 schools, as well as the latest science on the effectiveness of different prevention strategies within schools.
  • New COVID-19 Vaccination Resources for Schools and Childcare
  • COVID Experiences (CovEx) Surveys
    To monitor and describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, DASH has conducted the COVID Experiences (CovEx) Surveys—a pair of longitudinal surveys to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the health, mental health, and well-being of children and adolescents. The first of many manuscripts was released in last week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. DASH’s CovEx webpage will be updated as future manuscripts are published.
  • New PowerPoint Slides for 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Data Summary & Trends Report (DSTR)
    CDC released PowerPoint slides that summarize key findings from the 2019 YRBS DSTR that present national data on the health behaviors and experiences that contribute to adolescent health risks. This presentation also provides trend data on sexual minority youth (SMY).
  • CDC’s Adolescent Behavior and Experiences Survey
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many adolescents have experienced a disruption to their school routines. CDC is implementing an online survey, called the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES), which is an adaptation of YRBS to assess behaviors and experiences of high school students and the impact of the pandemic on their health. The survey is currently in the field and data will be released later this year. ABES results can help decision making for student support and school health programs as the United States works to emerge from the pandemic.
  • New Vital Signs Report on Teen Dating Violence
    CDC released a Vital Signs report on Teen Dating Violence on February 4th that highlights how teens’ experiences of violence are associated with health conditions and risky behaviors.
DASH Around Town
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April 6-9: Dr. Leigh Szucs and Nick Suarez will present at the 2021 Virtual Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Conferenceexternal icon entitled “Understanding the Evidence: A Review of School-based Substance Use Prevention Programs.”

Publications
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Updates from Partners
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  • American School Counselor Association Report: State of the Profession 2020
    In the fall of 2020, the American School Counselor Association distributed a state-of-the-profession survey to nearly 75,000 individuals, the majority of whom were school counselors. The recently released reportpdf iconexternal icon details the results of this survey including school counselors’ most significant challenges, response to COVID-19, and efforts to address racism and bias.
  • COVID-19 Reference for School Nurses
    The National Association of School Nurses recently released a new COVID-19 Reference for School Nursesexternal icon. The webpage contains evidence-based information and resources designed to assist school nurses in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as they formulate nursing judgement and participate in planning and policy development.
  • School-Based Strategies to Support Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health
    Child Trends released a new resourceexternal icon that provides an overview of strategies that schools and school-based health service providers can use to better meet the sexual and reproductive health care needs of their students.
In the Field
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As a result of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several school districts transitioned gay-straight alliance (GSA) club meetings to a virtual environment. Virtual GSAs help maintain a strong sense of connectedness and community for LGBTQ youth during school building closures. Districts developed creative approaches to foster connection virtually. In Oakland Unified School District, students were sent queer-themed books to celebrate Pride Month. In Palm Beach County Schools, one GSA made a “Selfie Yearbook” and another held an activity with Black Trans* and Breaking the Norms coloring books.

Calendar
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