As schools across the U.S. decide whether to reopen this fall, many are left wondering how to know if it's safe. Public health experts say virus rates in the community should be low, but there's little agreement on a specific threshold or even a measurement.
The federal government has largely left it to state and local governments to decide when it's safe to bring students back to the classroom. The result is a patchwork of policies that vary widely by state and county.
Minnesota, for example, suggests fully in-person classes if a county's two-week case rate is no higher than 10 per 10,000 people. In Pennsylvania, it's considered safe if a county's positive virus tests average lower than 5 per cent for a week.
The uncertainty has become a source of tension among school leaders who say they are being pressured to reopen without clear guidelines on how to do it safely. Some school leaders say they're left making decisions that should be made by health officials.
Parents, too, often say they're being left to fend for themselves amid the void, scrolling through health department dashboards to scrutinise virus statistics and make decisions about whether they should send their children back to school in-person or virtually.
In Houston, a group of school district leaders pushed back this week against local officials who recommended that classes remain virtual until hospitalization rates and the trend of new confirmed cases flatten, along with a 14-day average of 5 per cent positive tests.
Students are safer in college than at home: President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has blasted universities that have cancelled in-person classes amid coronavirus outbreaks, saying the move could ultimately cost lives rather than saving them. Raising the issue at a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Trump said the virus is akin to the seasonal flu for college students and that students pose a greater safety threat at home with older family members than on college campuses. He cited no evidence to support either contention, and the White House did not respond to a request for information about on what Trump based his remarks.