You may have seen it circulating around social media over the past week: an image that claims to be a list of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s guidelines for schools reopening this fall.
Over the weekend, an email was sent out to parents from Rockingham County Public Schools in regards to posts sharing that list, which contains false information.
Dr. Oskar Scheikl, Rockingham County School Division Superintendent, said the posts may look like they contain information from the CDC, but are written in a way that are false. There are misspellings in the text that should give away from the beginning that the post's not from the CDC, including "guidelines" in the title shown in the image, he pointed out.
"These types of posts kind of creates this sense of dread in the community, and 'Oh my God, what are they doing, how can the CDC tell us that everyone two and up will have to wear facemasks?'" Dr. Scheikl said. "We're not even there yet, you know, we're still three months away from school opening."
Dr. Scheikl said the school division was hoping to hear information on fall reopening during Gov. Ralph Northam's
but now expects information to come out in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, Northam was asked if his new mask order will apply to schools reopening in the fall, and his response was that decisions will be made on that after more time has passed, since a lot may change and/or develop between now and fall.
"Likely in the next week or two we will have a reopening plan that spells out some of the guidelines where the Virginia Department of Health interprets CDC considerations," Dr. Scheikl said. " We may be looking at a plan just like how the business have reopened."
He said that as soon as they find more information on opening for the next school year and for summer school, they will provide that information to parents.
The full email sent out to the community is below:
Dear RCPS Community,
Over the last few days, multiple social media posts have referred to a document they attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The posted document contains significant misinformation. In most cases, the document contains a bulleted list with a heading of "Here we go ... new CDC guidlines for reopening schools". Not only is the word guidelines misspelled, but the document itself is not from the CDC. The bulleted list is a selective rewording of some items in a lengthy document of CDC "considerations". The difference between guidelines and considerations is important, and the actual CDC considerations make it clear that "schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community."
According to the currently approved RCPS calendar, schools are to begin the fall semester in almost exactly 3 months. In a global pandemic like this, that is a significant amount of time. Looking back exactly 3 months, not a single case of COVID-19 had been identified in Virginia, and our students were beginning another week of school with the first day of tryouts for spring sports. Since then, words like social distancing, asymptomatic carriers, and antibody tests have become household names. Hundreds of scientific studies have already been conducted, and hundreds more are ongoing to provide new information about the virus that causes COVID-19. We continue to learn about the extent to which children who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus may or may not spread it, which music instruments project droplets the farthest, and what the effect of widespread wearing of masks has been in various countries. We are also learning about the automated posting of disinformation by computer programs called bots. We will certainly learn much more over the next few weeks and months.
Government and public health agencies that provide considerations for education departments or set guidelines that may set the parameters for reopening schools have to take a broad range of information into account. We will make decisions about reopening protocols based on expert advice from federal, state, and local officials, and we will inform you when we have a good idea of what these protocols may look like. Please avoid drawing conclusions about what school in Rockingham County this fall may look like based on social media rumors. Please stay safe and healthy and follow the advice from public health officials.
For your information, I am including the following links to the official CDC considerations as well as a CDC decision tool for reopening schools.
Oskar Scheikl, Ph.D.