Claim: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a list of guidelines for reopening schools.
A one-sheet list of guidelines for reopening schools, purportedly released by the Centers for Disease Control, is making rounds on social media.
The plain text viral meme starts out “Here we go.” It then spells “guidelines” incorrectly in its title.
The listed guidelines, which range from daily temperature checks to desks placed 6 feet apart in classrooms, follow the recent release of a 60-page document by the CDC. The agency’s “three-phased” approach outlines plans for reopening schools, restaurants and other businesses across the United States.
But the viral meme is lacking accuracy. While all listed guidelines are included in some form in the CDC document, many are reworded or missing words. For instance, the meme omits the key phrase “when feasible,” making the guidelines appear as rules instead of recommendations.
Guidelines are recommendations, not mandatory
The CDC document‘s guidelines for schools reopening says, the “CDC offers the following recommendations to keep communities safe while resuming peer-to-peer learning and providing crucial support for parents and guardians returning to work.” Also mentioned in the text is that recommendations depend on community monitoring.
It goes on to say that the recommendations should be made in collaboration with local health officials and other state and local authorities.
“Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community,” the CDC’s considerations for schools reads.
The considerations “are meant to supplement — not replace — any state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply.”
Bullet points appear as hard rules
The first point in the viral meme is misleading. It claims one of the guidelines is simply “wear masks over the age of 2.” However, the official CDC document says face coverings “should” be worn by staff and encouraged in students, “if feasible.”
The CDC reopening plan also acknowledges that face coverings may be challenging to wear in all-day settings.
Further guidelines in the meme include no shared spaces, physical barriers between sinks, no cafeteria food, canceled field trips, staggered arrivals and no switching of student groups or teachers.
The CDC does say that field trips and large group events should be canceled, desks should be 6 feet apart and children should stay with the same staff groups all day. But those are only recommendations to promote social distancing, not requirements.
CDC guidelines also recommend meals should be served in classrooms and not in cafeteria settings. Staggered drop-off times should take place “as much as possible” and social distancing should be created on school buses “where possible.”
The plan does recommend tape on sidewalks to assure social distancing, a practice that has been widely adopted in grocery stores. Communal use of shared spaces should be avoided, but it is noted that if this is not possible, staggered use and disinfecting could be an alternative approach.
Our rating: Partly false
The list circulating on social media regarding the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools contains a mixture of true and false information. Some of the guidelines in the post, such as canceling field trips and separating desks, accurately reflect points made in the reopening plan. However, the official CDC document states the guidelines are recommendations that can vary depending on the progress of COVID-19 in a certain state. Words such as “if possible” and “when feasible” are used by the CDC, while the viral post suggests the guidelines are mandatory. Nothing in the CDC document implies that all listed guidelines must be met to reopen schools across the country.