It’s funny the way a document intended to be supportive and helpful can be misinterpreted. The meme shown above supposedly lists CDC guidelines for reopening schools. However, it’s actually riddled with inaccuracies. Seemingly unaware of that fact, many people vented their anger and dismay on social media over the past week, seeing the guidelines as unnecessarily restrictive and unreasonable. As a result, this faulty list went viral, solidifying the belief that it was accurate.
However, phrases like “if feasible” and “whenever possible” were sprinkled throughout the real CDC document, yet somehow were omitted from this viral meme. Additionally, what so many apparently overlooked is that the official guidelines are just that—guidelines. They are not meant as requirements; they are merely suggestions for best practices. No wonder both the intent and the actual facts ended up distorted.
Take the guidelines for field trips, for instance. The widely reposted list says they should not be allowed, but the actual guidelines encourage limiting the trips, not eliminating them. Similarly, the first item says, “wear masks over the age of 2,” but the official guidelines advise that “if feasible,” adults in the school “should” wear masks and encourage students to wear them. The imprecise list contains other similar exaggerations and alterations. Clearly, deleting significant words changes the meaning of the actual recommendations.
As for the concern that the guidelines are overbearing, that’s not correct, either. The real CDC guidelines indicate that the recommendations depend on each community and “should be made in collaboration with local health officials and other state and local authorities.” In other words, each district should adapt the suggestions as they see fit. Where is the problem in that?
Surely everyone realizes the need for significant school changes in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, safety has to come first. Moreover, as eager as many people are to return to school as “normal,” it’s time to realize that that will not occur any time soon, if at all. We must craft new procedures going forward. Among them, social distancing in every way possible—from not sharing school supplies to not sitting in the cafeteria, to name a few—is here to stay. Get used to it.
What we don’t need is drama, especially the unnecessary kind such as that exhibited by those who overreacted to the altered guidelines. The quarantine as well as the illness that prompted it and the accompanying deaths have been stressful and dramatic enough. Misconstruing attempts to provide genuine guidance for reopening schools and turning it into a dramatic showdown serves no one. It only exacerbates an already difficult situation. We must do better.