Transcript: CDC Update on COVID-19

Press Briefing Transcript

Friday, February 12, 2021

Please Note: This transcript is not edited and may contain errors.

OPERATOR: WELCOME AND THANK YOU FOR STANDING BY.AT THIS TIME, ALL THE

PARTICIPANTS ARE ON LISTEN-ONLY MODE UNTIL OUR QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SESSION. DURING OUR QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION, ALL CALLERS ARE ABLE TO

ASK ONE QUESTION AND ONE FOLLOWUP. TODAY’S CONFERENCE IS BEING RECORDED.

IF YOU HAVE ANY OBJECTION, YOU MAY DISCONNECT, AT THIS TIME.AND NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO TURN THE MEETING OVER TO MR. BENJAMIN HAYNES. YOU MAY BEGIN.

HAYNES: THANK YOU, BRITTANY. AND THANK YOU ALL, FOR JOININGUS TODAY FOR AN UPDATE on CDC’s K-12 school guidance. My name is Ben Haynes, Deputy Chief of CDC’s News Media Branch. We are joined today by Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, CDC Director, who will provide an update on CDC’s latest guidance and recommendations. We are also joined today by Donna Harris-Aikens, Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Greta Massetti, Co-Lead of the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force in the CDC COVID response will be joining us during the Q&A portion of today’s telebriefing.  I’ll now turn the call over to Dr. Walensky.

WALENSKY: THANK YOU SO MUCH, BEN, AND THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.SINCE BECOMING CDC DIRECTOR, I HAVE STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF

BRINGING BACK K THROUGH 12 STUDENTS SAFELY TO IN-PERSON LEARNING, SINCE WE KNOW THE BENEFITS THE CLASSROOM SETTING AND THE SUPPORT SERVICES

DELIVERED BY SCHOOLS PROVIDE TO OUR STUDENTS.

ESPECIALLY, THOSE FROM LOW-RESOURCED, RACIAL AND ETHNIC-MINORITY COMMUNITIES, AND CHILDRENS WITH DISABILITIES.I RECOGNIZE THAT THE DECISION, ON WHEN AND HOW TO BEGIN IN-PERSON LEARNING IS ONE THAT

MUST BE BASED ON A THOROUGH REVIEW OF WHAT THE SCIENCE TELLS

US WORKS.AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES,

AND PERSPECTIVES, OF TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF, PARENTS, AND STUDENTS.

WE HAVE CONDUCTED AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF THE AVAILABLE SCIENCE AND EVIDENCE BASE TO GUIDE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS, AND WE HAVE ALSO ENGAGED WITH MANY EDUCATION AND PUBLIC-HEALTH PARTNERS, TO HEAR FIRSTHAND FROM PARENTS AND TEACHERS, DIRECTLY, ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AND CONCERNS.

THESE SESSIONS WERE SO INFORMATIVE, AND DIRECT CHANGES TO THE GUIDANCE WERE MADE AS A RESULT OF THEM.

I WANT TO UNDERSCORE THAT THE SAFEST WAY TO OPEN SCHOOLS IS TO

ENSURE THAT THERE IS AS LITTLE DISEASE AS POSSIBLE IN THE COMMUNITY. WE KNOW THAT THE INTRODUCTION OF SUBSEQUENT TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO, AND FACILITATED BY, TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19 OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOLS AND IN THE COMMUNITY.

THUS, ENABLING SCHOOLS TO OPEN AND REMAIN OPEN IS A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. THIS MEANS THAT ALL COMMUNITY MEMBERS, STUDENTS, FAMILIES, TEACHERS, AND SCHOOL STAFF, MUST DO THEIR PART TO PROTECT EACH

OTHER AND REDUCE THE LEVEL OF COVID-19 IN THEIR COMMUNITY.

I KNOW THAT TEACHERS, PARENTS, AND STATE AND LOCAL LEADERS HAVE BEEN STRETCHED THIN TRYING TO NAVIGATE THIS PANDEMIC. INSTEAD OF ASKING THEM TO PIECE TOGETHER A PATCHWORK OF GUIDANCES BY TOPIC, WE BELIEVED

IT WAS IMPORTANT TO CREATE A ONE-STOP SHOP TO PROVIDE THE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION THEY NEED TO KEEP TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND OTHER SCHOOL STAFF SAFE, WHEN SCHOOLS CHOOSE TO REOPEN.

SO TODAY, CDC IS RELEASING AN OPERATIONAL STRATEGY FOR K TO 12 SCHOOLS FOR PHASED MITIGATION. FOR OPENING IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION AND REMAINING OPEN. THIS SCIENCE-BASED STRATEGY RECOMMENDS AN INTEGRATED PACKAGE OF TOOLS THAT SUPPORTS SAFE SCHOOL REOPENING, AND PROTECTS TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND SCHOOL STAFF.

ONE OF THE MOST PIVOTAL COMPONENTS OF THIS STRATEGY IS LAYERED MITIGATION. RECOGNIZING THAT ALL MITIGATION STRATEGIES PROVIDE SOME LEVEL OF PROTECTION.BUT WHEN IMPLEMENTED, TOGETHER, OR LAYERED, THEY PROVIDE THE GREATEST LEVEL OF PROTECTION.

CDC, SPECIFICALLY, RECOMMENDS FIVE KEY, LAYERED-MITIGATION STRATEGIES.

UNIVERSAL AND CORRECT USE OF:

 

  • MASKS
  • PHYSICAL DISTANCING
  • HANDWASHING AND RESPIRATORY ETIQUETTE
  • CLEANING AND MAINTAINING HEALTHY FACILITIES
  • AND DIAGNOSTIC AND RAPID AND EFFICIENT-CONTACT TRACING, IN COMBINATION WITH ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE, AND IN COLLABORATION WITH THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT.

WHILE EACH OF THESE, FIVE STRATEGIES IS IMPORTANT TO PREVENT AND REDUCE THE SPREAD OF COVID-19, AND TO SUPPORT SAFE, SCHOOL REOPENING, CDC RECOMMENDS PRIORITIZING THE FIRST TWO.

UNIVERSAL AND CORRECT USE OF MASKS, THAT SHOULD BE REQUIRED FOR ALL STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF. AND PHYSICAL DISTANCING OF AT LEAST 6 FEET BETWEEN PEOPLE WITH COHORTING OR PODDING OF STUDENTS TO MINIMIZE EXPOSURE ACROSS THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT.

THESE TWO STRATEGIES ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT, IN AREAS

THAT HAVE HIGH-COMMUNITY SPREAD OF COVID-19. WHICH RIGHT NOW IS THE VAST MAJORITY OF COMMUNITIES IN THE UNITED STATES.WE KNOW THAT MOST CLUSTERS IN THE SCHOOL SETTING HAVE OCCURRED WHEN THERE ARE BREACHES IN MASK WEARING.

IN ADDITION, THE STRATEGY PROVIDES OTHER TOOLS THAT CAN BE INTEGRATED WITH CONSISTENT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LAYERED-MITIGATION STRATEGIES. SPECIFICALLY, INDICATORS TO REFLECT THE LEVEL OF COVID-19 IN

THE COMMUNITY, TO INFORM LOCAL DECISION-MAKING.

RECOMMENDATIONS, ON HOW TO PHASE IN MITIGATION STRATEGIES, AND

DIFFERENT-LEARNING MODES BASED ON LEVELS OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION.

FOR EXAMPLE, AT LOW LEVELS OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, LEVELS

THAT CURRENTLY ONLY — ARE ONLY IN LESS THAN 5% OF OUR NATION’S COUNTIES, CDC RECOMMENDS THAT SCHOOLS CAN PROVIDE FULL, IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION, WITH

UNIVERSAL USE OF MASKS AND OTHER MITIGATION STRATEGIES.

HOWEVER, IF LEVELS OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RISE INTO HIGH LEVELS, AS IS CURRENTLY THE CASE IN OVER 90% OF OUR COUNTIES, SCHOOLS SHOULD REQUIRE

PHYSICAL DISTANCING OF AT LEAST 6 FEET, AND REDUCE SPORTS AND OTHER, EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.

WHERE, AND WHEN, AVAILABLE, SCREENING TESTING TO IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS WITH COVID-19 INFECTION, IN ORDER TO LIMIT TRANSMISSION AND OUTBREAKS. IMPROVING VENTILATION, SUCH AS BY OPENING WINDOWS, AND DOORS, WHEN POSSIBLE.AND FOR VACCINATION OF TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF.

I WANT TO BE CLEAR.WITH THE RELEASE OF THIS OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, CDC IS NOT MANDATING THAT SCHOOLS REOPEN. THESE RECOMMENDATIONS, SIMPLY, PROVIDE SCHOOLS A LONG-NEEDED ROADMAP FOR HOW TO DO SO, SAFELY, UNDER DIFFERENT LEVELS OF DISEASE IN THE COMMUNITY.

THE SCIENCE, ALSO, SHOWS US THAT K-TO-12 SCHOOLS THAT HAVE IMPLEMENTED STRICT MITIGATION STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SAFELY OPEN FOR IN-PERSON

INSTRUCTION, AND REMAIN OPEN.AND TODAY’S OPERATIONAL STRATEGY PROVIDES THE ROADMAP TO DO THIS SAFELY.

WE, ALSO, KNOW THAT SOME SCHOOLS ARE, ALREADY, PROVIDING IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION, AND WE WANT THEM TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE TO DO THIS.BUT WE KNOW THAT SOME ARE NOTFOLLOWING THE RECOMMENDED-MITIGATION STRATEGIES WE KNOW TO WORK.

FOR THESE SCHOOLS, WE ARE NOT MANDATING THAT THEY CLOSE. RATHER, WE ARE PROVIDING THESE RECOMMENDATIONS AND HIGHLIGHTING THE SCIENCE BEHIND THEM TO HELP SCHOOLS CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT IS SAFE FOR SCHOOLS — FOR

STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF.

AS I NOTED EARLIER, CDC’S OPERATIONAL STRATEGY IS GROUNDED IN SCIENCE, AND THE BEST-AVAILABLE EVIDENCE. TO SUPPORT THE RELEASE OF THE

OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, CDC IS, ALSO, RELEASING A SCIENTIFIC BRIEF THAT SYNTHESIZES THE LITERATURE AND EVOLVING SCIENCE ON PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS.

SPECIFICALLY, THE BRIEF USE THE CURRENT EVIDENCE BASE ON COVID-19 AMONG CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN SCHOOL SETTINGS, AND ABOUT VIRUS RANSMISSION. HERE ARE SOME KEY FINDINGS:

 

  • ALTHOUGH CHILDREN CAN BEINFECTED WITH SARS-CoV-2, CAN GET SICK FROM COVID-19, AND CAN SPREAD THE VIRUS TO OTHERS, LESS THAN 10% OF COVID-19 CASES IN THE U.S. HAVE BEEN AMONG CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS BETWEEN THE AGES OF 5 AND 17.
  • CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS MAY BE LESS COMMONLY INFECTED WITH SARS-CoV-2 THAN ADULTS.
  • IN-PERSON LEARNING IN SCHOOLS HAS NOT BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH A SUBSTANTIAL, COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION. SARS-CoV-2 TRANSMISSION AMONG STUDENTS IS RELATIVELY RARE.
  • STUDENTS ARE NOT THE PRIMARY SOURCES OF EXPOSURE TO SARS-CoV-2, AMONG ADULTS IN SCHOOL SETTINGS.
  • EVIDENCE SUGGESTS THAT STAFF-TO-STAFF TRANSMISSION IS MORE COMMON THAN TRANSMISSION FROM STUDENTS TO STAFF, STAFF TO STUDENT, OR STUDENT TO STUDENT.
  • IT IS POSSIBLE FOR COMMUNITIES TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF COVID-19, WHILE KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN FOR IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION.
  • MOST SCHOOL OUTBREAKS ARE THE RESULT OF BREACHES IN MASK WEARING, AND LAX MITIGATION.

FINALLY, I CANNOT ADDRESS SCHOOLREOPENINGS, AND OUR OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT VACCINATIONS FOR TEACHERS AND STAFF. OUR OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, SPECIFICALLY, INCLUDES A COMPONENT ON VACCINATIONS FOR TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF, AS AN ADDITIONAL LAYER OF PROTECTION THAT CAN BE ADDED TO THE RECOMMENDED, FIVE, KEY MITIGATION STRATEGIES. THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES, OR ACIP,RECOMMENDS THAT FRONTLINE-ESSENTIAL WORKERS,INCLUDING THOSE WHO WORK IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR, OUR TEACHERS, AND SCHOOL STAFF, ALONG WITH PEOPLE AGED GREATER THAN 75 BE PRIORITIZED FOR COVID-19 VACCINATION.

AS SUCH, WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE STATES TO PRIORITIZE TEACHERS AND OTHER SCHOOL STAFF TO GET VACCINATED.IF WE WANT OUR CHILDREN TO RECEIVE IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION, WE MUST ENSURE THE TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF ARE HEALTHY, AND PROTECTED FROM GETTING COVID-19 IN PLACES OUTSIDE OF SCHOOLS

WHERE THEY MIGHT BE AT HIGHER RISK.

AND TO THE PARENTS OUT THERE, AND AS A PARENT, MYSELF, I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS MAY BE ONE OF THE HARDEST DECISIONS YOU HAVE HAD TO MAKE, SINCE THE

PANDEMIC BEGAN. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN, ABOUT YOUR FAMILY, WHO THEY COME HOME TO. ABOUT THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS YOU HAVE.

I WANT TO REASSURE YOU THAT OUR OPERATIONAL STRATEGY IS SCIENCE BASED, WITH THE GOAL OF PROTECTING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF, AND THEIR FAMILIES, WHILE GETTING BACK TO THE CLASSROOM SAFELY.

WE WANT TO PARTNER YOU — WITH YOU IN THIS EFFORT.AS PART OF OUR RELEASE, TODAY, WE HAVE PLACED NEW, ONLINE SOURCES AND TOOLS FOR K-THROUGH-12 SCHOOLS ON THE CDC WEBSITE, WHICH COMPLEMENT OUR OPERATIONAL STRATEGY FOR

SCHOOLS. AND WE ARE PLANNING TO HOST WEBINARS, WITH KEY-EDUCATIONAL AND PUBLIC-HEALTH PARTNERS TO HELP INFORM STAKEHOLDERS ABOUT THIS NEW, OPERATIONAL STRATEGY.

THE DECISION TO GO BACK TO IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION IS NOT ONE THAT ANY OF US TAKE LIGHTLY. BELIEVE ME, I KNOW. AT CDC, WE HAVE THOROUGHLY REVIEWED THE SCIENCE, AND ENGAGED WITH STAKEHOLDERS AS WE WORKED TO PRODUCE AN OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, TO SUPPORT SAFE, IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION AND PROTECT TEACHERS, STUDENTS,AND OTHER SCHOOL STAFF.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION. I LOOK FORWARD TO TAKING YOUR QUESTIONS. BUT FIRST, I WILL NOW TURN IT OVER TO DONNA HARRIS-AIKENS, FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. DONNA.

HARRIS-AIKENS: THANK YOU, DR. WALENSKY. AND MANY THANKS FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP ON THIS ISSUE.I AM HONORED TO BE HERE AND APPRECIATE YOU ALL JOINING TODAY’S CALL. I AM DONNA HARRIS AIKENS, SENIOR ADVISER FOR POLICY AND PLANNING AT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.WE HAVE ALL SEEN EXTRAORDINARY EFFORTS BY STATES, DISTRICTS, SCHOOLS, EDUCATORS, AND FAMILIES, TO SUPPORT STUDENTS’ LEARNING THROUGH REALLYCHALLENGING TIME IN THE MIDST OF THIS PANDEMIC.

MANY SCHOOLS HAVE IMPLEMENTED MITIGATION STRATEGIES THAT EFFECTIVELY REDUCED THE SPREAD OF COVID, AND THESE EFFORTS HAVE BEEN TRULY EMARKABLE.

AND WE ARE EXCITED TO SEE THEM CONTINUE. DESPITE THESE EFFORTS, AND THE

HEROIC WORK BY EDUCATORS, THIS PANDEMIC HAS LED TO INCREASED ABSENCES, FEWER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS. MORE KIDS GOING HUNGRY. AND MORE SOCIAL ISOLATION.

FOR THESE REASONS, AND MORE, WE NEED TO GET KIDS BACK IN THE CLASSROOM AND TO DO THAT, SCHOOLS AND EDUCATORS NEED HELP. THEY NEED GUIDANCE AND THEY NEED RESOURCES. THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IS COMMITTED TO WORKING WITH THE CDC, SCHOOL LEADERS, PARENTS, AND COMMUNITIES, TO GET STUDENTS

BACK IN THE CLASSROOM, AS QUICKLY AND AS SAFELY AS WE CAN. AND THAT’S WHY, TODAY, ALONGSIDE THE CDC, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IS RELEASING OUR FIRST VOLUME OF THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT’S COVID-19 HANDBOOK.

THE GOAL OF OUR HANDBOOK IS TO SUPPLEMENT THE CDC OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, WITH PRACTICAL EXAMPLES AND ROADMAP. WE WANT TO GIVE EDUCATORS AND SCHOOLS THE TOOLS THAT THEY NEED TO IMPLEMENT MITIGATION STRATEGIES, AND HELP SAFELY REOPEN FOR IN-PERSON LEARNING.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE HANDBOOK PROVIDES APPLICABLE STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE NIVERSAL AND CORRECT USE OF MASKS IN SCHOOLS BY RECOMMENDING THE USE OF SIGNS AND SCHOOL ANNOUNCEMENTS TO REMIND STUDENTS AND STAFF HOW TO PROPERLY USE MASKS. IT ALSO WORKS THROUGH SUGGESTED PROTOCOLS AND POLICIES THAT SCHOOLS SHOULD CONSIDER FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT WEARING

THEIR MASKS APPROPRIATELY.

REGARDING PHYSICAL DISTANCING, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S HANDBOOK, ALSO, DETAILS A VARIETY OF PRACTICAL WAYS THAT EDUCATORS AND SCHOOLS CAN

PRACTICE PHYSICAL DISTANCING, WHICH MANY SCHOOLS ARE ALREADY IMPLEMENTING ACROSS THIS COUNTRY.FOR EXAMPLE, THE HANDBOOK TALKS TO A VARIETY OF STRATEGIES AROUND PODDING, WHICH DR. WALENSKY MENTIONED. PODDING CAN ACTUALLY REDUCE THE SPREAD OF COVID BY GROUPING STUDENTS INTO A POD THAT STAYS TOGETHER ALL DAY WITH THEIR CORE TEACHER AND AIDE. AND WE ACKNOWLEDGE THIS STRATEGY IS ACTUALLY EASIER IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS THAN IT WOULD BE IN MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL.

THE HANDBOOK ALSO DISCUSSES WAYS TO GET CREATIVE IN LAYING OUT CLASSROOMS AND USING AUDITORIUMS AND CAFETERIAS FOR INSTRUCTION. ADDITIONALLY, IT DISCUSSES HOW TO STAGGER USE OF COMMUNAL SPACES AND RECONFIGURING BELL

SCHEDULES TO STREAMLINE FOOT TRAFFIC IN THE SCHOOL.

IN ADDITION TO MITIGATION STRATEGIES, THE DEPARTMENT OF ED HANDBOOK, ALSO, LAYS OUT A ROADMAP FOR HOW A SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL REOPENING STRATEGY REQUIRES ONGOING ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENTIRE, SCHOOL COMMUNITY. AND WE DISCUSSED WHO SHOULD BE AT THE TABLE FOR THESE CONVERSATIONS AND SUGGEST WAYS THAT SCHOOL LEADERS AND EDUCATORS CAN CONDUCT INDIVIDUAL OUTREACH

ACTIVITIES, SURVEYS, AND VIRTUAL TOWN HALLS TO ENGAGE THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY SUPPORTING SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS.

I, ALSO, WANT TO MAKE CLEAR, THAT THIS FIRST VOLUME IS JUST THE FIRST, IN A SERIES. IN THE COMING WEEKS, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WILL PROVIDE MORE SPECIFIC STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS THE EXTRAORDINARY DISRUPTION CREATED BY COVID-19 FOR STUDENTS, EDUCATORS, AND PARENTS. ESPECIALLY, FOR HISTORICALLY UNDERSERVED STUDENTS IN COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN HIT HARDEST BY THIS PANDEMIC.

THESE TOPICS WILL INCLUDE:

  • STRATEGIES AROUND MEETING SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL-HEALTH, AND ACADEMIC NEEDS OF STUDENTS.
  • SUPPORTING EDUCATOR AND SCHOOL STAFF’ WELLBEING.
  • ADDRESSING LOST INSTRUCTIONAL TIME FOR STUDENTS.
  • EXTENDED-LEARNING TIME.
  • BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE.
  • AND SO MUCH MORE.

WE’LL BE UNDERTAKING A ROBUST STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT PROCESS FOR THIS AND LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING YOU INFORMED AS WE WORK ON THESE ADDITIONAL PIECES OF GUIDANCE.

THE DEPARTMENT LOOKS FORWARD TO BEING A PARTNER TO THOSE ON THE GROUND, WHO ARE STEEPED IN THE WORK OF SAFE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS IN-PERSON LEARNING.EDUCATORS, LABOR LEADERS, PARENTS, AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS, TO COLLABORATE. WE KNOW THAT ALL SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES ARE GOING TO FACE

DIFFERENT CHALLENGES.AND THIS HANDBOOK IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF HOW THE DEPARTMENT IS GOING TO BE HANDS ON AND SOLUTION ORIENTED.

WE WILL WORK CLOSELY WITH LOCAL-SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO LEARN FROM THEIR EXPERIENCES. AND PROVIDE THEM THE RESOURCES AND INFORMATION THEY NEED TO

WORK WITH HEALTH OFFICIALS, TO REOPEN SCHOOLS SAFELY AND SUPPORT STUDENTS, WHEREVER THEY ARE LEARNING. IN ADDITION TO THIS GUIDANCE, PRESIDENT BIDEN IS CALLING ON CONGRESS TO PROVIDE FUNDING IN THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN TO PROVIDE THE CRITICAL RESOURCES THAT ARE NEEDED TO SAFELY REOPEN SCHOOLS. INCLUDING, MASKING, VENTILATION, SMALLER CLASS SIZES, AND

CLEANING.

THE PLAN WOULD ALSO PROVIDE FUNDS TO ADDRESS THE IMPACT OF COVID ON THE SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL HEALTH, AND ACADEMIC NEEDS OF STUDENTS.SCHOOLS ABSOLUTELY NEED THESE RESOURCES AS THEY ADDRESS CHALLENGES AROUND REOPENING AND STAYING OPEN.

AND WE HOPE CONGRESS WILL DELIVER ON THE PRESIDENT’S REQUEST. I WILL CLOSE BY SAYING THANK YOU TO DR. WALENSKY AND THE CDC FOR LAYING OUT A VERY CLEAR, OPERATIONAL STRATEGY ABOUT WHEN AND HOW TO REOPEN SAFELY.

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THIS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN A GREAT CHALLENGE TO OUR COUNTRY, TO OUR SCHOOLS, AND TO OUR FAMILIES. AND OUR SCHOOLS, STUDENTS,

EDUCATORS, AND LEADERS, HAVE BEEN TAKING THIS CHALLENGE, HEAD ON. AND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WILL CONTINUE TO PROVIDE RESOURCES AND GUIDANCE TO HELP. AND LOOKS FORWARD TO BEING A PARTNER TO ALL THOSE INVOLVED.

THANK YOU, VERY MUCH, FOR YOUR TIME.

OPERATOR: WE CAN NOW BEGIN THE QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SESSION, IF YOU ARE READY TO BEGIN.IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION, PLEASE, PRESS STAR,

THEN ONE AND RECORD YOUR NAME CLEARLY WHEN PROMPTED.IF YOU NEED TO WITHDRAWAL YOUR QUESTION, PLEASE, PRESS STAR, THEN TWO. OUR FIRST QUESTION COMES FROM “THE NEW YORK TIMES.” YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

 NY TIMES: HI. THANK YOU FOR TAKING MY QUESTION.I ACTUALLY HAVE TWO, AND I WILL TRY TO KEEP THEM BRIEF. THE FIRST IS THAT, WHAT I HEARD ABOUT VENTILATION WAS JUST THAT YOU SAID OPENING OF DOORS AND WINDOWS, AS POSSIBLE. IS THERE A LOT MORE DETAIL? OR IS THAT SORT OF IT? AND THEN, THE OTHER QUESTION IS, AT THE HIGHER LEVELS OF TRANSMISSION, YOU SAID THAT SCHOOLS SHOULD TRY TO HAVE 6 FEET OF DISTANCE, I THINK.YOU SAID IT’S REQUIRED AT THOSE HIGHER LEVELS. DOES THAT MEAN THAT AT LOWER?

LEVELS OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, IT’S NOT REQUIRED? DOES THAT MEAN ALL STUDENTS CAN COME BACK TO SCHOOL?

WALENSKY: I CAN TAKE THOSE QUESTIONS. THANK YOU FOR THEM. WE ARE ASKING SCHOOLS TO FOLLOW THE FIVE-KEY MITIGATION STRATEGIES.AND WE HAVE SEEN, THROUGH THE EVIDENCE, THAT THOSE FIVE KEY-MITIGATION STRATEGIES CAN KEEP SCHOOLS SAFE. THAT SAID, WE KNOW THAT RESPIRATORY VIRUSES THRIVE IN AREAS WHERE THERE IS LIMITED VENTILATION. AND SO, WE ARE ASKING OUR — THE

SCHOOLS TO DO THEIR BEST, WITH REGARD TO VENTILATION. AND THERE’S TOOLKIT, A CHECKLIST OF HOW TO IMPROVE VENTILATION STRATEGIES IN THE SCHOOL. SO, WE HAVE SOMETHING THAT’S IMPLEMENTABLE, WITH VENTILATION.

WITH REGARD TO TRANSMISSION AND SIX FEET, YOU KNOW, IN THESE LOWER AREAS OF TRANSMISSION.THOSE AREAS WHERE INFECT ONLY LESS THAN 5% OF OUR COMMUNITIES ARE RIGHT NOW, LOW TO MODERATE TRANSMISSION, WE ARE WORRIED

THAT PEOPLE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET BACK TO FULL, IN-PERSON

LEARNING IF WE MANDATE SIX FEET. AND OF PHYSICAL DISTANCE.SO, WE ARE ASKING THAT SCHOOLS — AND WE BELIEVE THAT, AT SUCH LOW LEVELS OF

TRANSMISSION, THAT SCHOOLS COULD BE KEPT SAFE.

SIMPLY, WITH UNIVERSAL MASKING AND ALL THE OTHER THREE MITIGATION STRATEGIES, WHILE DOING THEIR BEST TO LIMIT INTERACTION.SO, WE BELIEVE THAT, AT THOSE VERY-LOW LEVELS OF TRANSMISSION, THAT SCHOOLS COULD BE OPEN FOR FULL, IN-PERSON LEARNING.WHILE TRYING TO DO SIX FEET OF

DISTANCING.RECOGNIZING, IN SOME SITUATIONS, THAT MIGHT NOT BE POSSIBLE.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE, BRITTANY.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. AND OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM ANNIE FROM ABC NEWS. YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

NBC NEWS: HI. THANKS FOR TAKING MY QUESTION.SO, JUST TO FOLLOW UP ON THAT. IF YOU ARE IN A RED ZONE, AND YOU DO WANT TO GO FULL TIME.IS YOUR RECOMMENDATION, THEN, THAT THE SCHOOLS SHOULD CONDUCT REGULAR TESTING OF STUDENTS AND STAFF, EVEN IF THEY DON’T SHOW SYMPTOMS?

WALENSKY: THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION. THANK YOU FOR THAT. WE — YOU KNOW, IN AREAS OF RED, HIGH TRANSMISSION, WE HAVE ADVOCATED FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

TO BE IN A HYBRID-LEARNING MODE WITH REDUCED ATTENDANCE BECAUSE WE REALLY DO BELIEVE THAT YOU NEED FULL, SIX FEET OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING AT THAT — AT THAT LEVEL OF TRANSMISSION.AND SIMILARLY, WITH HIGH SCHOOLS, THIS WAS NOTED IT’S HARDER TO COHORT AND POD IN THOSE SETTINGS.SO, REALLY, IF WE’RE AT SUCH-HIGH LEVELS OF TRANSMISSION, WE ARE ADVOCATING FOR, PERHAPS, MORE VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION. AND THEN, IF IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THE

6 FEET FEET OF DISTANCING, TO DO SO AND TO OPEN IN HYBRID MODE.THAT SAID, WE BELIEVE THAT — THAT SCHOOL TESTING COULD BE — SCHOOL SCREENING COULD BE ANOTHER LAYER OF MITIGATION, THAT COULD REALLY HELP TO KEEP THINGS WAFE.AND IF SCHOOL SCREENING WITH ANTIGEN TESTING, RAPID SCREENING, OR — OR POOL — POOLED — PCR TESTING IS POSSIBLE. THEN, IN AREAS OF HIGH

TRANSMISSION, WE WOULD ADVOCATE FOR WEEKLY TESTING, BOTH OF TEACHERS AND OF STUDENTS.

NBC NEWS: WELL, AND IF I COULD JUST FOLLOW UP WITH MS. HARRIS-AIKENS

ON THAT. DO YOU ANTICIPATE HOW SOON SCHOOLS MIGHT BE ABLE TO BE TESTING?

BECAUSE I SEE THIS AS A POTENTIAL EQUITY ISSUE, THAT SOME SCHOOLS WILL BE ABLE TO AFFORD IT. OTHER SCHOOLS WON’T.

HARRIS-AIKENS: THANK YOU. WE DON’T HAVE A GOOD ESTIMATE OF TIME, AT THIS MOMENT.BUT AS YOU KNOW, THE GOAL IS TO GET ALL STUDENTS BACK IN SCHOOL.

AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THE FOLKS ON THE GROUND TO GET A BASELINE OF WHAT’S HAPPENING.AND A FEDERALLY COLLECTED DATA COLLECTION OF THE MODES IN WHICH SCHOOLS ARE OPEN RIGHT NOW.SO LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING WITH YOU ALL ABOUT THAT, A LITTLE LATER.

WALENSKY: AND MAYBE, I’LL JUST LAYER ON THAT.THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN DOES HAVE RESOURCES FOR SCHOOL SCREENING.AND TO THE EXTENT THAT WE HAVE

THOSE RESOURCES FROM THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN, I THINK, WE WOULD BE ABLE TO DISTRIBUTE THEM MUCH MORE EQUITABLY.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU.OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM FRANCESCA CHAMBERS.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

MCCLATCHEY: THANK YOU. IF I COULD JUST FOLLOW ON THAT. IN THE GUIDANCE, AT LEAST THAT I AM LOOKING AT ONLINE, IT SAYS THAT SCHOOLS COULD USE TESTING.BUT IT DOESN’T SAY THAT THEY SHOULD USE CORONAVIRUS TESTING

AS A MITIGATION STRATEGY.SO I’M JUST WONDERING WHY YOU DIDN’T SAY THAT THEY SHOULD USE THIS. AND SECONDLY, YOU MENTIONED IF THEY HAD THE RESOURCES, THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND ALL TEACHERS AND STUDENTS GETTING TESTED, ONCE A WEEK.YOU KNOW, SOME OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS, SUCH AS THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION, HAVE RECOMMENDED THAT TEACHERS AND TEACHING STAFF GET TESTED TWICE A WEEK. SO, HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THAT ONCE-A-WEEK NUMBER? AND IMPORTANTLY, GIVEN THE VACCINATION LEVEL IN THE COUNTRY, CURRENTLY, YOU KNOW, WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK THAT VACCINATIONS WOULD TAKE PLACE, AND, THEREFORE, TESTING WOULD NO LONGER BE NECESSARY AT SUCH A ROBUST LEVEL?

WALENSKY: YEAH, THANKS FOR THAT QUESTION.YOU KNOW, WE HAVE SEEN NUMEROUS

EXAMPLES.THE SCIENCE HAS DEMONSTRATED, IN THE ABSENCE OF ROUTINE-SCREENING STRATEGIES, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF COMPLETE VACCINATION, THAT

THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES WHERE IT’S POSSIBLE FOR SCHOOLS TO REOPEN SAFELY.

AND SCHOOLS HAVE REOPENED SAFELY, WITH THE FIVE KEY-MITIGATION STRATEGIES THAT WE OUTLINED.NOW, AS SCREENING IS MADE POSSIBLE. AS IT’S BECOMES AVAILABLE, WE BELIEVE IT WOULD BE, YET ANOTHER, LAYER OF PROTECTION.AND THAT IS WHY WE HAVE ADVOCATED FOR IT WHEN IT’S POSSIBLE.BUT WE DON’T BELIEVE IT TO BE NECESSARY, TO MAKE IT SAFE.WE KNOW THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO BE SAFE.IT CAN BE SAFE.IT WILL BE SAFE.WHEN ALL OF THESE OTHER KEY

MITIGATION STRATEGIES ARE FOLLOWED.WE — MAYBE, I’LL PASS THIS TO

IN TERMS OF THE FREQUENCY OF SCREENING THAT WAS RECOMMENDED.

MASSETTI: YES, THANK YOU DR. WALENSKY. SO, ESSENTIALLY, OUR RECOMMENDATION FOR STATES THAT WE RECOMMEND THAT SCHOOLS — THAT IMPLEMENT SCREENING TESTING DO SO AT LEAST WEEKLY FOR STAFF AND WEEKLY FOR STUDENTS.AND THEN, THAT IS BASED ON BOTH MODELING DATA THAT WE HAVE

REVIEWED, AND SOME OF WHICH WE HAVE CONDUCTED WITH OUR MODELING TEAM AT CDC. AS WELL AS A CONSIDERATION OF FEASIBILITY IMPLEMENTATION. BASED ON OUR MODELING DATA, IT SUGGESTS THAT AT LEAST WEEKLY TESTING IS FEASIBLE, AND WOULD RETURN THE LEVEL OF RESULTS AND FREQUENCY OF RESULTS THAT WOULD

YIELD ADEQUATE SCREENING. WHILE BALANCED WITH FEASIBILITY OF IMPLEMENTATION FOR BOTH TEACHERS AND STUDENTS.

WALENSKY: THERE WAS ONE OTHER QUESTION THAT I COULD FOLLOW UP WITH.

I WANT TO BE CAREFUL TO ASSUME THAT ONCE WE HAVE VACCINATION, THAT WE AREN’T GOING TO NEED TO CONTINUE AT LEAST SOME OF THESE MITIGATION STRATEGIES OVER SOME PERIOD OF TIME.AND SO, IT MAY, VERY WELL, BE

THAT SOME COMBINATION OF THE MITIGATION STRATEGIES THAT WE HAVE.

WE WILL NEED TO BE DOING FOR SOME PERIOD OF TIME.WE DO NOT KNOW THE DURABILITY OF VACCINATIONS.WE DON’T KNOW WHETHER WE ARE GOING TO NEED BOOSTER VACCINATIONS.AND I DO BELIEVE THAT WE ARE GOING TO NEED TO CONTINUE AT LEAST SOME OF THESE MITIGATION STRATEGIES FOR SOME TIME, AHEAD.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU.OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM JOHN WOOLFOLK.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

MERCURY NEWS:  HI, THANK YOU. I WAS CURIOUS ABOUT THE FIVE THAT YOU

MENTIONED. YOU MENTIONED HANDWASHING AND CLEANING, AMONG THOSE. AND YOU HAD MENTIONED THAT THOSE WERE NOT YOUR HIGHEST PRIORITY.BUT IS THERE DATA

ABOUT THAT — THE DISEASE SPREADING THROUGH, YOU KNOW, CONTACT WITH CONTAMINATED SURFACES? BECAUSE THESE ARE — THAT STUFF IS SUPEREXPENSIVE TO DO.AND IF IT’S JUST THEATER, IS IT REALLY NECESSARY? AND AT THE SAME TIME, ARE YOU SAYING, JUST TO BE CLEAR, THAT TEACHERS DO NOT

NEED TO BE VACCINATED TO COME BACK AND REOPEN SCHOOLS? JUST TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR.

WALENSKY:THANKS FOR THOSE QUESTIONS.I BELIEVE THAT, BASED ON THE DATA, THAT WE NEED TO HAVE CLEAN SURFACES FOR OUR STUDENTS.AND THAT WE SHOULD PROBABLY LIMIT THE SHARING OF COMMON SURFACES.WE SHOULD LIMIT THE SHARING

OF KEYBOARDS AND OF CRAYONS AND THINGS LIKE THAT.BUT IN TERMS OF THE FULL, YOU KNOW — YOU KNOW, THE FUMIGATION PEOPLE ARE DOING

TO TRY AND CLEAN THE SCHOOLS.I DON’T BELIEVE THE DATA SUGGESTS THAT THERE’S A LOT OF TRANSMISSION THAT COMES FROM SURFACES TO PEOPLE.

AND ESPECIALLY, AFTER SOME PERIOD OF TIME. DR. MASSETTI, YOU WANT TO CHIME IN ON THAT?

MASSETTI: NO, I THINK THAT PRETTY MUCH COVERS IT. THANK YOU.

WALENSKY: SO, WE’VE PRIORITIZED — WHILE WE BELIEVE SURFACES NEED TO BE

CLEANED NOT JUST FOR COVID BUT FOR ALL, OTHER POTENTIAL RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS.WE BELIEVE THAT SURFACES SHOULD BE CLEANED.AS I NOTED EARLIER, WE HAVE REALLY FOCUSED ON BOTH THEMASKING, AS WELL AS THE DISTANCING, AS OUR KEY-MITIGATION STRATEGIES.IN TERMS OF YOUR QUESTION ABOUT VACCINATION, AGAIN, IT’S ONE OF THOSE LAYERS OF MITIGATION THAT WE BELIEVE WILL HELP. BUT WE BELIEVE, AND THE SCIENCE HAS DEMONSTRATED, THAT SCHOOLS CAN BE REOPENED SAFELY, PRIOR TO ALL TEACHERS BEING VACCINATED.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT — OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM MAGGIE FOX FROM CNN. YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

CNN: HI. THANKS.CAN YOU DEFINE OPEN SAFELY FOR US? CAN WE HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF CLARITY AROUND WHAT WE CONSIDER TO BE SAFE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS?

WALENSKY: YEAH, THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION. YOU KNOW, WHAT WE ARE FINDING,

FROM THE SCIENCE-BASED LITERATURE, IS THAT THERE IS MORE SPREAD THAT IS HAPPENING IN THE COMMUNITY WHEN SCHOOLS ARE NOT OPEN, THAN WHEN SCHOOLS ARE OPEN.SO, WE CERTAINLY WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS LIMITED-TO-NO

TRANSMISSION OF DISEASE IN OUR SCHOOLS. AND, OF COURSE, WE ARE MANAGING

ALL SORTS OF RISK.SO, IF SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED, THERE IS LOTS OF OTHER

RISKS. THAT IS, RISKS TO FOOD INSECURITY AND MANY OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT DONNA HAS MENTIONED. THE LACK OF EDUCATION. EDUCATIONAL

MILESTONES BEING MISSED. SO, MANY OTHER THINGS THAT WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IN THE RISK. SO, REALLY, WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS LIMITED-TO-NO TRANSMISSION IN THE SCHOOLS. AND WE BELIEVE, WITH THE STRATEGIES THAT WE HAVE PUT FORWARD, THAT THERE WILL BE LIMITED-TO-NO

TRANSMISSION IN THE SCHOOLS, IF THEY ARE FOLLOWED.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM LAURA FROM “THE WASHINGTON POST.” YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

WAPO: THANK YOU SO MUCH.I’M WONDERING, WHAT DIFFERENCES YOU SEE, EITHER IN SUBSTANCE OR IN TONE, BETWEEN THE PREVIOUS GUIDELINES UNDER THE TRUMP

ADMINISTRATION THAT CDC PUT OUT AND THESE SET OF GUIDELINES? THEY SEEM, IN TERMS OF, AT BASE, SOMEWHAT SIMILAR. AND I’M WONDERING IF THERE ARE

DIFFERENCES YOU SEE, IN SUBSTANCE AND THE WAY THAT THEY ARE PRESENTED.

AND ALSO, I JUST WANTED TO CLARIFY THE VENTILATION PIECE.THAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR FIVE KEY STRATEGIES.YOU KNOW, IN A LOT OF COMMUNITIES, THERE HAVE BEEN BIG ARGUMENTS OVER THIS. WITH TEACHERS TALKING ABOUT

SCHOOLS NOT HAVING ADEQUATE VENTILATION IN THEIR ESPECIALLY OLDER BUILDINGS. AND IN URBAN AREAS. SO, ARE YOU ESSENTIALLY SAYING THAT YOU CAN GO AHEAD AND DO THIS WITHOUT THAT? THAT VENTILATION

CONCERNS SHOULD NOT HOLD UP EVEN THOUGH IT WOULD BE GOOD TO HAVE

BETTER VENTILATION, THAT REALLY SHOULD NOT HOLD UP REOPENING?

WALENSKY: YEAH. THANK YOU — THANK YOU FOR BOTH OF THOSE QUESTIONS.LET ME START WITH THE FIRST, WHICH, I WANT TO JUST HIGHLIGHT A FEW THINGS THAT I THINK ARE KEY AND DIFFERENT IN THIS SCHOOL GUIDANCE. ONE IS WE HAVE DONE AN EXTENSIVE, SCIENTIFIC REVIEW.WE HAVE LEARNED A LOT FROM WHAT  EXPERIENCES HAPPENED IN UNITED STATES, HERE, IN THE FALL.AS WELL AS, IN THE EU, WHERE SCHOOLS HAVE OPENED MORE SO THAN THEY HAVE POTENTIALLY HERE. SO THERE IS MORE SCIENCE TO RELY ON, AND WE’VE LEARNED A LOT FROM

THAT SCIENCE.THAT SCIENCE IS WOVEN INTO THE FABRIC OF THESE GUIDANCES.

WE’VE USED STRONGER LANGUAGE, THAN PRIOR GUIDANCE.MWE’VE BEEN MUCH MORE

PRESCRIPTIVE HERE, AS TO PUTTING SOME GUARDRAILS ON WHAT CAN AND SHOULD BE DONE, IN ORDER TO GET TO A SAFE REOPENING. AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THIS IS FREE FROM POLITICAL MEDDLING. SO, THAT, I WANT TO JUST MAKE SURE IS CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD. IN TERMS OF THE VENTILATION, WE HAVE VENTILATION IN THERE. MANY OF THOSE — SCIENCE AND THE DATA THAT DEMONSTRATE THE SAFE

REOPENING AND THE MANY EXAMPLES THAT WE HAVE DO NOT COMMENT ON VENTILATION.SO IT’S VERY HARD TO INTERPRET THE SCIENCE OF SAFE REOPENING,

IN THE CONTEXT OF VENTILATION.THAT SAID, WE KNOW THAT RESPIRATORY VIRUSES THRIVE WHEN THERE IS POOR VENTILATION.AND WE VERY MUCH,

ADVOCATE FOR ANOTHER LAYER OF MITIGATION TO BE IMPROVED VENTILATION. AND THAT IS NOT JUST REALLY FOR COVID-19, BUT THAT IS FOR MANY, OTHER THINGS, THAT PUBLIC HEALTH THINGS THAT WILL IMPROVE WHEN WE IMPROVE

VENTILATION IN OUR SCHOOLS, INCLUDING THINGS LIKE ASTHMA, AND EXPOSURE TO MOLD. SO, WE HAVE ANOTHER LAYER OF MITIGATION IN THE SCHOOL GUIDANCE THAT COMMENTS ON VENTILATION. AND A TOOLKIT THAT DEMONSTRATES HOW TO

IMPROVE VENTILATION. AND IT IS ONE OF THOSE STRATEGIES, ALONG WITH SCREENING AND TEACHER VACCINATION, THAT WE THINK CAN BE EXTRA LAYERS OF SUPPORT HERE.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU.OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM WILL FROM CNBC.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

CNBC: THANKS FOR TAKING MY QUESTION.DR. WALENSKY, IN THE GUIDANCE, I

THINK, THERE WERE A COUPLE PARAGRAPHS JUST KIND OF CAUTIONING ABOUT THE NEW VARIANTS OF CONCERN SPREADING THROUGHOUT THE U.S. AND THE WORLD.

COULD YOU OFFER ANY MORE COLOR TO THE GUIDANCE BE UPDATED SOON? WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, ARE YOU GUYS WATCHING FOR TO REALLY IMPACT THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS?

WALENSKY: THANK YOU FOR THAT.CERTAINLY, WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE EMERGENCE OF NEW VARIANTS HERE, IN THE UNITED STATES. WE HAVE BEEN DOING MORE SURVEILLANCE FOR THOSE VARIANTS, AND WE ARE FINDING MORE OF THEM.

WE KNOW THAT THE DISEASE OF THE VARIANTS IS VERY SIMILARLY TRANSMITTED, AS TO THE DISEASE OF THE WILDTYPE VIRUS. BUT WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE

INCREASED TRANSMISSION THAT HAS BEEN REPORTED WITH SOME OF THESE VARIANTS. AS SUCH, IF WE HAVE INCREASED AMOUNTS OF COMMUNITY SPREAD THAT

IS RELATED TO THESE VARIANTS, AS MIGHT EMERGE, THEN WE WOULD NEED TO FOLLOW THE INCREASED, YOU KNOW, THE INCREASED AMOUNT OF MITIGATION STRATEGIES THAT ARE REQUIRED IN THOSE HIGHER LEVELS OF COMMUNITY SPREAD.

WHAT WE, ALSO, WANTED TO INDICATE IS THAT, YOU KNOW, IF WE GET TO A POINT WHERE WE ARE BEYOND THE RED ZONE HERE. REALLY HIGH LEVELS OF COMMUNITY

SPREAD, RELATED TO THESE VARIANTS OR RELATED TO JUST MORE TRANSMISSION.

WE MAY NEED TO REVISIT THIS, AGAIN.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM EMILY.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

REPORTER: HI. THANK YOU FOR TAKING MY QUESTION. ABOUT A THIRD OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE OUTDATED HVAC SYSTEMS. I WAS WONDERING IF THAT WAS PART

OF CDC’S THINKING? AND MY UNDERSTANDING IS THE WHITE HOUSE’S REQUEST FOR 130 BILLION IN FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS DOESN’T INCLUDE UPDATES TO HVAC

SYSTEMS. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD CONFIRM THAT, AND SORT OF, YOU KNOW, EXPLAIN WHY?

WALENSKY: MAYBE, I’LL TAKE THE FIRST PART. BUT I WILL, ALSO, PASS IT TO

DONNA AND SAY AMONG THE THINGS ON THE TOOLKIT FOR VENTILATION WILL BE TO SUGGEST UPDATING HVAC SYSTEMS, GETTING THOSE SYSTEMS UP AND RUNNING AGAIN. AND CERTAINLY, WE WOULD ADVOCATE FOR THAT AS PART OF THE UPDATE

TO VENTILATION FOR MITIGATION STRATEGY. DONNA, DO YOU WANT TO COMMENT,

AT ALL?

HARRIS-AIKENS:  YES. SO, THE WHITE HOUSE DEFINITELY HAS PROVIDED A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND DELIVERED THAT TO CONGRESS.AND WE, ACTUALLY, ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO CONGRESS PASSING THAT BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT SCHOOLS

NEED DIFFERENT THINGS. THEY NEED DIFFERENT RESOURCES. NOT EVERY SCHOOL IS IN THE SAME CONDITION.THERE ARE, CERTAINLY, EQUITY ISSUES AT PLAY, AND HAVE BEEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME. AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN BEING PASSED SO THAT SCHOOLS, STATES AND LOCAL DISTRICTS, HAVE THE

RESOURCES THEY NEED TO MAKE THEIR SCHOOLS SAFER SO WE CAN ACTUALLY GET ALL STUDENTS BACK TO SCHOOL SAFELY, AND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM ALEXANDER FROM YAHOO NEWS.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

YAHOO: HI. THANK YOU FOR — THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE CALL.TWO QUESTIONS.

FIRST, DR. WALENSKY, YOU SAID THAT THE NEW GUIDANCE WAS FREE OF OLITICAL MEDDLING.DID THE WHITE HOUSE REVIEW WHAT — YOUR REMARKS OR THE GUIDANCE, ITSELF? MY SECOND QUESTION IS FOR MS. HARRIS AIKENS.I DON’T HAVE TO TELL

YOU HAVE A LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NEA.IS YOUR PRESENCE HERE, SORT OF,

A SIGN TO THE UNIONS, THE NEA, THE UFT, THAT THEY SHOULD BE LESS RELUCTANT TO REOPEN SCHOOLS?

WALENSKY: MAYBE, I’LL START. WE HAVE PRESENTED PIECES OF THIS GUIDANCE TO THE WHITE HOUSE, SO THAT THEY KNEW WHAT WE WERE PLANNING.BUT THEY HAVE NOT REVIEWED MY REMARKS.

HARRIS-AIKENS: AND ON YOUR SECOND QUESTION, OR WHAT I PERCEIVE TO BE YOUR

SECOND QUESTION, NO, MY PRESENCE HERE IS NOT A MESSAGE TO ANYONE. MY EMPLOYER IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND I REPRESENT THEIR VIEWS. WE HAVE TALKED TO A VARIETY OF STAKEHOLDERS.AND LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING OUR ROBUST ENGAGEMENT WITH ALL SORTS OF STAKEHOLDERS, NOT ONLY

IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY BUT IN THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. THAT INCLUDES SUPERINTENDENTS, PRINCIPALS, CIVIL-RIGHTS GROUPS, AND ALL SORTS OF OTHER FOLKS.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM MIKE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

AP: HI. THANK YOU FOR TAKING MY CALL. WHAT’S THE LATEST WE ARE TALKING ABOUT SCHOOL REOPENING. BUT FOR K-THROUGH-12 SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY, HOW MANY ARE CURRENTLY OPEN? OR HOW MANY — DO YOU HAVE THE STATS?

AND ALSO, AS IT WAS MENTIONED IN A PREVIOUS QUESTION, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF THIS HAS BEEN STATED IN PREVIOUS ITERATIONS OF CDC GUIDANCE. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAD INFORMATION ABOUT HOW MANY SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING THESE RECOMMENDATIONS? AND I’M SORRY, THE LAST ONE JUST

ABOUT THE SIX-FOOT GUIDANCE KICKING IN. IF THERE IS HIGH-COMMUNITY

SPREAD.SO, CURRENTLY, SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK, DESKS ARE SPACED SIX FEET

APART. YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, UNLESS THERE’S HIGH-COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, THEY CAN PUT ALL THE DESKS TOGETHER AND NOT FOLLOW SIX-FOOT DISTANCING? IS THAT CORRECT? AM I UNDERSTANDING CORRECTLY? THANK YOU.

WALENSKY: YEAH. THANK YOU FOR THAT QUESTION. WE ARE ADVOCATING FOR DOING YOUR BEST WITH PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN AREAS OF LOW-COMMUNITY SPREAD. IF THE DESKS ARE SIX FEET APART, AND THEY CAN GET ALL THE KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL, WE WOULD ADVOCATE TO KEEP THEM THAT WAY. AND IN FACT, THE GUIDANCE IS PRETTY ARTICULATE IN SAYING THAT, TO THE GREATEST EXTENT

POSSIBLE, IF YOU CAN KEEP YOUR — IF YOU CAN GET YOUR KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL.BUT I WOULD SAY, I DON’T THINK NEW YORK IS IN THE AREA OF LOW

TRANSMISSION THAT WE WOULD ADVOCATE FOR EVEN STARTING TO MOVE IN THAT DIRECTION. FOR WHAT COUNTIES AND DISTRICTS ARE DOING RIGHT NOW. THERE HAVE BEEN SOME SURVEY DATA THAT HAVE SUGGESTED, ALTHOUGH THESE DATA ARE REALLY LIMITED RIGHT NOW, THAT AROUND 60% OF SCHOOLS ARE IN SOME SORT OF

IN-PERSON LEARNING. BUT MOST OF THAT, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THAT, IS HYBRID. AND THOSE DATA ARE REALLY HARD TO COME BY BECAUSE HYBRID, AS

YOU CAN IMAGINE, COMES IN MANY DIFFERENT FLAVORS WHEN YOU START DOING SURVEYS. SO, I’M REALLY ENCOURAGED AS DEPARTMENT OF ED IS GOING TO

START COLLECTING DATA ON WHAT SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE OPEN, AND HOW. AND MAYBE, AT THIS POINT, I’LL PASS IT TO DONNA.

HARRIS-AIKENS: THANK YOU, DR. WALENSKY.AND YES, WE ABSOLUTELY NEED

BETTER DATA ON THIS. THE DEPARTMENT WILL BE COLLECTING DATA AROUND EXACTLY THAT QUESTION. IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE LEARN HOW STUDENTS ARE LEARNING, AND THE STATUS OF THE REOPENING QUESTION ON THE GROUND. SO, THIS DATA WILL BE THE HIGHEST-QUALITY SURVEY FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, SENT TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SHARING THOSE RESULTS, AS WE GET THEM.

HAYNES: BRITTANY, WE HAVE TIME FOR THREE MORE QUESTIONS.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM MEG OLIVER FROM CBS NEWS NATIONAL. YOUR LINE IS OPEN.

CBS NEWS: HI. THANK YOU FOR TAKING MY QUESTION, DR. WALENSKY. I WAS HOPING YOU COULD CLARIFY, FOR ME, HOW LOW DOES THE TRANSMISSION RATE NEED TO BE IN THE COMMUNITY TO ADVOCATE FOR FULLY REOPENING? AND IS THAT NUMBER THE POSITIVITY RATE? OR THE RATE OF NEW CASES?

WALENSKY: THANK YOU FOR THAT.SO, OUR LEVELS OF TRANSMISSION ARE BROKEN INTO FOUR DIFFERENT STRATA.AND THEY ARE BASED ON TWO BENCHMARKS.ONE IS TOTAL, NEW CASES, PER 100,000 PERSONS IN THE PRIOR-SEVEN DAYS. AND THE SECOND IS PERCENT POSITIVITY OF TESTS IN THE PRIOR-SEVEN DAYS. SO, TO BE IN THAT LOWEST LEVEL OF TRANSMISSION, IN BLUE, YOU WOULD HAVE TO HAVE 9 OR LESS NEW CASES PER 100,000 IN THE PAST-SEVEN DAYS, AND LESS THAN 5% TEST POSITIVITY.

HAYNES: NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM CRAIG FROM KNX CBS. YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

KNX: THANK YOU, DOCTOR, FOR TAKING THE CALL.HERE, IN LOS ANGELES, IN JUST

TWO QUESTIONS. THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, LAUSD, RECENTLY OR I GUESS OVER THE

COURSE OF THIS TERRIBLE PANDEMIC, THEY’VE PUT IN — AND I DON’T REMEMBER THE EXACT NAME OF THEM — BUT THESE REALLY HIGH — HIGH-END AIR FILTERS

WITH THE AIR-CONDITIONING SYSTEM AT ALL THE CAMPUSES, I UNDERSTAND. AND THE FILTERS ARE EQUIVALENT TO N95-MASK-LEVEL FILTER. SO, I WANTED TO KNOW IF THAT IS PART OF YOUR RECOMMENDATION? OR IF THAT’S EVEN ABOVE IT? AND THEN, ALSO, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT KIDS GOING BACK, DO WE START WITH THOSE YOUNGER GROUPS — THE K TO 2 AND GRADUATE UP? LIKE JUST WALK ME

THROUGH THAT SO I MAKE SURE I UNDERSTAND.

WALENSKY: THAT’S GREAT. THANK YOU.SO I THINK WHAT YOU ARE DESCRIBING IS MRV 13 FILTERS AND THOSE WOULD BE TOP-LINE FILTERS THAT WOULD GET, YOU KNOW, MORE THAN THE 4 TO 6 AIR EXCHANGES PER HOUR THAT YOU WOULD WANT, IN

ORDER TO, YOU KNOW, MAXIMIZE VENTILATION. THAT WOULD BE ONE OF THE CHECKBOXES ON OUR TOOLKIT THAT WOULD BE ONE THAT WE WOULD ASPIRE TO. SO THAT WOULD BE TERRIFIC. IN TERMS OF YOUR SECOND QUESTION, YOU KNOW, WE DO KNOW THAT THE OLDER CHILDREN GET, A, HARDER IT IS TO COHORT AND POD. AND, B, THE MORE THEY ACT LIKE ADULTS, IN TERMS OF THEIR TRANSMISSION AND THEIR DISEASE. SO, WHEN WE ARE IN AREAS OF HIGH TRANSMISSION, WE HAVE PUSHED MORE FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL HYBRID LEARNING, BEFORE MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL HYBRID LEARNING.ALSO, RECOGNIZING THAT THE YOUNG CHILDREN ARE THE HARDEST ONES TO BE TEACHING IN THE HOME SETTING.

HAYNES: LAST QUESTION, PLEASE, BRITTANY.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU. OUR FINAL QUESTION COMES FROM BLAKE BERMAN FROM FOX NEWS, FOX BUSINESS. YOUR LINE IS NOW OPEN.

FOX NEWS: HI. THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS. AS THE LAST QUESTION, I GUESS,

LET ME JUST ASK YOU.YOU SAID THAT YOU ARE NOT DEMANDING, AT THIS POINT, THAT SCHOOLS REOPEN.BUT JUST TO SORT OF TURN THAT AROUND FOR FRUSTRATED PARENTS OUT THERE, WHO ARE WONDERING WHY THEIR KIDS ARE NOT IN SCHOOL.

WHY AREN’T YOU DEMANDING, AT THIS POINT, THAT SCHOOLS REOPEN? AND WHEN DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT GET TO A PLACE OR WE MIGHT GET TO A PLACE THAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE?

WALENSKY: THANK YOU FOR THAT QUESTION. I DON’T THINK I HAVE AUTHORITY TO DEMAND OR MANDATE THAT SCHOOLS OPEN.MY AUTHORITY WOULD BE TO SORT OF PROVIDE THE GUIDANCE TO MAKE SURE THAT IT’S SAFE.FOR EVERY PARENT, I THINK THAT DEMANDING THAT THEIR SCHOOL IS OPEN, I HAVE HEARD FROM MANY

PARENTS WHO ARE STILL VERY WORRIED ABOUT SENDING THEIR KIDS BACK. SO, WE’RE REALLY TRYING TO JUST NOT GET INTO THE EMOTION OF IT. BUT TO PROVIDE THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR HOW IT CAN BE DONE SAFELY.

HAYNES: ONCE AGAIN, I’D LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE FOR JOINING US TODAY. AND ESPECIALLY, THANK YOU TO OUR SPEAKERS. IF YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS,

PLEASE, CONTACT THE MAIN-MEDIA LINE AT 404-639-3286. OR E-MAIL MEDIA@CDC.GOV. THANK YOU.

OPERATOR: THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION IN TODAY’S CONFERENCE. ALL PARTICIPANTS MAY DISCONNECT, AT THIS TIME.

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Page last reviewed: February 12, 2021