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CDC director: Schools are not a major coronavirus transmission source

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Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reiterated his advocacy for in-person learning, citing evidence that schools aren’t a major source of coronavirus transmission.

The comments arose in an interview with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, just as other CDC officials were briefing the media on shorter coronavirus-related quarantine periods.

The CDC announced two acceptable quarantine periods, though it noted that the previously-established 14 days of quarantine is the best way to reduce risk of virus spread. Officials said quarantine can now end after 10 days without a COVID-19 test, if the person reports no symptoms, or after seven days with a negative test result if the person reports no symptoms.

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Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized his advocacy for in-person learning on Wednesday. Here he is pictured testifying at a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Sept. 16, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP)

While Redfield spoke to many coronavirus-related topics, like vaccines, mortality and hospitalization statistics and projected timelines, he emphasized his advocacy for in-person learning. 

“You know, I was very disappointed in New York when they closed schools, when they hit their 3% point, because, as you pointed out, we now have substantial data that shows that schools’ face-to-face learning can be conducted in K-12, and particularly in the elementary and middle schools in a safe and responsible way,” Redfield said.

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Infections among teachers and students occur because of community transmission or virus spread at home, Redfield said.

“We’re not seeing intra-school transmission,” he said.

The CDC director emphasized the benefits of in-person learning, like socialization, mental health services, and food programs, saying at-home learning can, unfortunately, give rise to more substance abuse and suicide. 

“I just think it’s healthy for these kids to be in school,” he continued. “That said, they got to do it safely and they’ve got to do it responsibly. And when this was started over the summer, no one really knew for certain. They thought that these public health measures would work. But now the data clearly shows us that you can operate these schools in face-to-face learning in a safe and responsible way.”

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