“Guidelines for reopening of schools in Washington Sufficient,” Top American epidemiologist

An exterior view shows Goethe Elementary School in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, as Chicago Public Schools suspended in-person learning after Chicago Teachers Union members voted to work remotely due to concerns around the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) precautions in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

A top American epidemiologist says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic are sufficient but schools will face major challenges in the coming weeks because of virus variants.

Michael Osterholm is head of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and was named to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force before Biden became president. Osterholm says there’s low virus transmission at schools, especially for younger students, but virus variants are “a real red flag coming down the road.”

Osterholm told CBS on Monday he thinks a virus variant from the United Kingdom in particular is going to cause such a surge in U.S. cases over the next 14 weeks that “a lot of schools are going to be challenged to open at all.”

The CDC said Friday in-person schooling can resume safely with masks, social distancing and other strategies. The nation’s top public health agency says vaccinating teachers is important but isn’t a prerequisite for reopening schools.

Osterholm says health authorities don’t have enough vaccine doses for everyone so he’d prioritize vaccinating older people over teachers.

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