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This page undergoes regular review and was last comprehensively reviewed on December 6, 2022. Some sections may reflect more recent updates.
During winter 2022-23, U.S. K-12 schools and communities are facing high circulation of respiratory viruses including SARS-CoV-2 as well as influenza and RSV. COVID-19 vaccines are now available and recommended by CDC for everyone in the U.S. aged 6 months and older, and pediatric COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective public health strategy to reduce COVID-19 infection in school settings.
In addition to pediatric vaccination, CDC recommends a variety of COVID-19 prevention strategies in schools, including staying home when sick; optimizing ventilation; and maintaining high standards of cleaning, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette.
A number of U.S. and international studies have shown that when vaccination was not yet widely available for all school-age children, masking, physical distancing, improved ventilation, hand-washing, contact tracing with quarantine and isolation, and testing were important layers of prevention to reduce infection (Falk, January 2021; Hershow, March 2021; Varma, May 2021). One study in Massachusetts done after vaccination was available to school-age children showed that lifting of masking requirements was associated with an increase in COVID-19 cases in students and school staff (Cowger, November 2022).
Current CDC operational guidance for K-12 schools and early care programs recommends implementing layered infectious disease prevention strategies as part of normal operations that are responsive to CDC’s COVID-19 community risk levels. July 2022 guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends strategies that support safe in-person learning.
In addition to considering CDC guidance, schools must comply with any federal, state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations that may be applicable.