What the new CDC guidance for schools means for children

Desks are arranged in an elementary school in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania. In the fall, vaccinated teachers and students no longer need to wear masks inside schools, according to new CDC guidance.

(CNN)Five full days a week, every week: After more than a year of remote learning, hybrid schedules and missed experiences, getting back to school -- "normal" school -- is all many parents and students want. But with Covid-19 surging again in some US states and concerns over new virus variants growing, what classrooms will look like exactly in the fall is still evolving.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance last week on the importance of having all schools opened for in-person, full-time instruction in the fall. To safely keep schools open, the CDC recommended what it calls "a layered mitigation strategy." This is a systematic strategy involving multiple interventions to reduce risk, such as including the use of indoor masks for unvaccinated students and teachers.
What happens if schools reopen but don't enforce these procedures? For example, what should parents do if schools don't require masks? Should vaccinated children over 12 feel comfortable removing their masks in schools? And when might vaccines be available for younger children?
    We asked CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen for her thoughts. Wen is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She's also author of a book coming out later this month, "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."
      CNN: With the more contagious Delta variant circulating, are these CDC guidelines enough to keep students, teachers, staff and their families safe?
      Dr. Leana Wen: Yes. At this point, we have plenty of data that schools can be very safe from a Covid-19 transmission standpoint if mitigation measures are followed. The CDC has been very thoughtful in its guidance, which cites numerous scientific articles to explain its strategic approach.
      Specifically, the CDC is saying that indoor masking is important for unvaccinated people. That's because the unvaccinated are still at high risk for getting and transmitting coronavirus. Vaccination protects people very well, so, consistent with the rest of the guidance for vaccinated individuals, the CDC is saying vaccinated people don't need to mask indoors. It recommends weekly testing for unvaccinated students and staff, which could be more frequent for individuals involved in certain, higher-risk extracurricular activities. And there are other mitigation measures, too, such as an investment in improved ventilation using federal Covid relief funds and keeping students at home when they are having any possible symptoms of Covid-19. All these measures added together will substantially reduce transmission risk in schools.
        CNN: But what about not being able to have 6-foot physical distancing? The CDC is saying this is no longer required.