Emily Oster

8 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Updated CDC Guidelines for School and Child Care

Emily Oster

8 min Read

At the end of last week, the CDC released new guidelines for COVID, both for the overall population and for schools and child care settings. I want to discuss that today, in the hopes of making clear what it means for parents. I asked on Instagram what questions people had, and for the most part, these questions were captured by the person who said, “Can you put it in English?” CDC guidelines tend to be long and somewhat opaque. So let’s unpack them.

A note: These guidelines apply to both schools and child care centers. I’ll often use “schools” as shorthand here, but the guidelines make no distinction, so this all applies everywhere.

Purpose, impact, and overall frame

The goal of the CDC guidelines is to help state health departments, school districts, and individual schools and child care centers make decisions about COVID protocols. These guidelines are not binding, and, in fact, they explicitly make statements about using local expertise, doing what works for the area situation, etc.

At least half of U.S. school districts are already back at school by this point, so many of these decisions have already been made. In addition, the approach of individual school districts tends to be heavily determined by state policy and local politics. My guess is that these guidelines are more important for the more COVID-conservative areas of the country and for early childhood centers, which often must make their own decisions.

In general: these new guidelines take a significant step toward a pre-COVID world. They work to eliminate a lot of the COVID-specific disruptions that we do not see for other illnesses.

Specific guidelines

The CDC guidelines start with some advice for schools and early childhood centers, including, importantly, an emphasis on improving ventilation and staying home when sick. These early parts of the guidelines are notable for having dropped any discussion of physical distancing or cohorting, both of which were emphasized in the last version. They then turn to the parts that are most important in terms of impacting the lives of parents:

  • Quarantines for exposure
  • Vaccination requirements
  • What to do if you test positive
  • Masking guidelines
  • Testing

Quarantines for exposure

This is the big, exciting, change. The new guidelines suggest no quarantine for COVID exposure (this includes both in-school and out-of-school exposure).

Prior guidelines suggested a 10-day quarantine or test-to-stay as an alternative. So doing away with this is huge, especially for parents of children under 2, where test-to-stay has been less of an option.

There is a wrinkle to this: the guidelines suggest that after an exposure, individuals remain masked for 10 days and test after day 5. These guidelines have been in place for everyone for a long period and haven’t changed. I am unsure of the extent to which most schools will enforce this, especially as contact tracing becomes less common. But it did lead to concern from parents of the under-2 set.

In particular, since that group cannot mask, the guidelines are a bit ambiguous about whether they still need to quarantine. A lot of you sent me panicked messages about that. I have good news. I wrote to the CDC directly about it, and a CDC spokesperson replied officially:

Those who are exposed do not need to quarantine, including those who cannot mask (e.g., children 2 years and younger, students with disabilities who might have difficulty masking). Schools and ECE programs can determine if they would like to use testing in these scenarios. Or, the other options include: masking of those who are able to and would be close contacts or implementing other layers of prevention, including distancing, ventilation.

No quarantine. Possibly do some kind of testing, or just do other things like better ventilation. So, yay! No more quarantines.

(FAQ below if your child care isn’t following this change).

Vaccination requirements

The CDC encourages vaccination, and it emphasizes that schools and child care centers have an opportunity to encourage vaccination of children. The agency also points to the role of schools in vaccine equity and notes the importance of other childhood vaccines, where rates have been lower in the pandemic.

However, nothing in the guidelines suggests that schools or child care centers should mandate vaccines, nor do they differentiate any of the advice they give between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

What to do if you (or your child) test positive

For a positive test, the new guidelines say: stay home for 5 days, followed by 5 days of masking on return.

The significant change here is that the last set of guidelines suggested that schools require a test to return to school. The guidelines continue to suggest the use of a test-based strategy if masking is not possible (i.e. for children under 2).

Masking

The CDC recommends masking in schools in areas that it designates high-transmission. (This designation is based on factors like case rates and hospitalizations, and you can find your county level here.) This is in line with its overall recommendations about masking in indoor spaces. Burbio is collecting data on who is requiring indoor masking, and it is worth noting that most districts are not requiring masking even if they are in a high-transmission area.

The CDC also (see above) recommends masking for 10 days following a known exposure. Again, I’m not sure of the extent to which this will be enforced in most school settings.

Testing

Testing for diagnosis (when someone has symptoms) is recommended in schools (and in general) using widely available rapid tests.

The new guidelines move away from screening testing. They say, explicitly: “CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in K-12 schools.” This is a change from prior guidelines. It has been among the more contentious changes, but the logic is that this testing is expensive and logistically challenging. It also causes missed school among children who are completely asymptomatic and unlikely to spread COVID.

Schools may consider doing widespread testing either during an outbreak or before a large event.

FAQ

The above is the TL;DR of the guidelines. A few specific questions…

Should I send my child in a mask even if it is not required?

The CDC is clear that schools and child care centers should support individual masking if that’s the parent’s choice. In terms of COVID protection, this is a complicated question. A well-fitting N95 or KN94 mask, worn consistently at all times, is very protective against COVID-19. Health-care workers wear these, or respirators, and they provide great protection.

So if your child is able to wear a tight KN94 mask all the time at child care, this could lower their risk of getting COVID. However: most children struggle to do this, and in any case masks are likely to be removed at lunch, for napping, etc. In addition, masking can make your child more difficult to understand, which could impact their experience.

The way I would frame this is to first ask if mask-wearing in the way that it would be required for protection is feasible. If yes, then there is a more complicated choice. If not, there is no real benefit. If you are looking to lower your child’s risk of serious COVID illness, a vaccine will help with that.

What if my child care center doesn’t believe the guidelines eliminate quarantines for the under-2 set?

I have heard this a lot.

First, try forwarding this newsletter — hopefully the quote from the CDC above will help! If it doesn’t, I’d encourage them to reach out to the agency directly (the media address is media@cdc.gov).

I do wish the guidelines were just a bit clearer on this. If your child care center has communicated in a way that seems confused here (i.e. if they have kept quarantines) please consider sending us any communications from them (email here, with subject “CDC Guidelines”). I’ll try to bring to the CDC attention.

My child care center or school still requires masking (even outside). Is this in line with CDC guidelines?

CDC guidelines do not suggest outdoor masking. In terms of indoor masking, they suggest masking only in areas of high transmission. They do note that some child care centers (yours, I guess) will choose to enact stronger masking guidelines. This leaves some open space, so it is hard to argue that this choice is inconsistent with their guidelines. But it is definitely more conservative.

D.C. public schools are requiring a test to return to school. Is this reflecting these guidelines?

No. Screening testing is no longer recommended. Moreover, a single test at the start of the year in an open school system is likely to do almost nothing for COVID prevention.

Bottom line

The big win here is the elimination of quarantines. Yay! Here is hoping for a less disrupted school year, more time to work, and happier and more relaxed parents.

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Updated CDC Guidelines for School and Child Care

NO QUARANTINES!!!

Emily Oster

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Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic. 

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”

Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic.

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
...

I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles

I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles
...

Here’s why I think you don’t have to throw away your baby bottles.

Here’s why I think you don’t have to throw away your baby bottles. ...

Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs

Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs
...

Just keep wiping.

Just keep wiping. ...

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash  S e x  Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash S e x Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships
...

Should your kid be in a car seat on the plane? The AAP recommends that you put kids under 40 pounds into a car seat on airplanes. However, airlines don’t require car seats.

Here’s what we know from a data standpoint:
✈️ The risk of injury to a child on a plane without a carseat is very small (about 1 in 250,000)
✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats 
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy. 

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety

Should your kid be in a car seat on the plane? The AAP recommends that you put kids under 40 pounds into a car seat on airplanes. However, airlines don’t require car seats.

Here’s what we know from a data standpoint:
✈️ The risk of injury to a child on a plane without a carseat is very small (about 1 in 250,000)
✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy.

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear. 

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.
...

Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community! 

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛

Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community!

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛
...

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster
...

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common. 

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common.

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity
...

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
...

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor
...

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...