Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19, February 17, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

210. National COVID-19 Strategic Plan – (Part 4 of 8)

        Q:  What’s in the new United States strategic plan for controlling this pandemic?

        A: On January 21, 2021, Joe Biden released the 198-page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.  This week’s summary gives details about

Goal 3 – Mitigate spread through expanding
masking, testing, treatment, data, workforce,
and clear public health standards


The Strategic Plan states: “A comprehensive national public health effort to control the virus – even after the vaccination program ramps up – will be essential to saving lives and restoring activity.”  To achieve this, the United States will:”

  • Implement masking nationwide by working with state and local officials and people;
  • Scale and expand testing;
  • Effectively distribute tests and expand access to testing;
  • Create new therapeutics, treatment development programs and drug prioritization.
  • Develop actionable, evidence-based public health guidance;
  • Expand the US public health workforce and increase clinical care capacity;
  • Improve data to guide the response to COVID-19.

Next week:  Details about Goal 4 – Expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act.

 211. Issues with vaccination registration – as of February 15, 2021

         Q. Has anything changed since last week on the vaccination program?

         A. The previous methods to track eligibility for vaccination and to make appointments remain the same. These are now broadly published by the news media.  The wide-spread confusion and waiting times are slowly being reduced.  “Be patient and persistent!” is generally good advice to follow.  A new nation-wide NBC website was released last week designed to centralize the process.  This “Plan Your Vaccine” is located at:[1]

This release was just a short time ago.  Its  usefulness has yet to be evaluated by public feedback.

212. CDC guidelines issued for school reopenings

         Q:  Have the promised school opening guidelines been released by the CDC?

         A:  Yes.  Previous statements that studies and data indicated it would now be safe to reopen primary schools (K-12) met with controversy and concern.  In reaction to this confusion, the recommendation that schools should open soon was delayed until the CDC provided guidelines to make schools safe.  This was yet another illustration that expectations need to be shared to allow decisions to become predictable.  On February 11, 2021, CDC published the promised guidelines as “considerations” for operating schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was stated that these are not “mandates” nor “requirements.”  They offer guidance for school officials, staff and parents in reaching a decision to reopen.

Any local decision to open and remain open should be based on measuring the benefits of achieving educational goals with in-person teaching against the risk of infecting children, teachers and staff.  This CDC document offers mitigating “considerations” for review.

These new guidelines are quite detailed.  “Taking actions to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19” takes up most of the 16-page CDC document.  The discussion centers on mitigation and reduction of risk.  It is broadly recommended that every school should have a written “Emergency Operations Plan” (EOP).  Such a plan should address in detail the following;

  • Promoting behavior that reduces risk including masks and social distancing;
  • Adequate supplies including PPE, hand sanitizer, and no-touch trashcans;
  • Healthy environments including regular cleaning, and adequate ventilation:
  • Healthy operations including considerations for at-risk staff, and splitting schedules;
  • Preparations for when someone becomes sick including care and transportation;
  • Considerations for students with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

After release, the immediate reaction to these guidelines was concern over the costs and delays to implement many of these considerations.  Ventilation and expanding space to permit social distancing are cited.  These guidelines go beyond the current need, which is to reopen schools quickly.  In addition, it is noted that testing is not included, which is seen by most authorities as essential to identify asymptomatic patients.

Every school in Connecticut is mandated to have a written emergency operations plan.  Evaluation and approval of each school’s plan is done annually by the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS).  Because any modification of a plan is usually scheduled on an annual basis before it’s review, no  plans have yet been updated to include these new CDC guidelines.  However, every school should be rapidly preparing draft COVID policies and procedures, including these new considerations, attached to their plans.  Concerned parents might want to review their school’s EOP plan and policies to ensure it is updated.  To compare a school plan’s details against the CDC considerations, anyone can obtain a complete copy of the new CDC guidelines at:1

Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations


[1] To open this website, copy the entire URL (the underlined letters in blue and copy this in your browser.

213. Teacher vaccines are not required before schools reopen

         Q:  Are teacher vaccinations required in the new CDC school reopening guidelines?

         A:  Teacher vaccination is the latest state-wide hot spot of controversy with COVID-19 mitigation.   Many people everywhere are clamoring to become eligible so they can quickly get their shots.  Teachers in Connecticut are in a group that has yet to become eligible.  There is a perception that continuous lengthy indoor classes with numbers of people not living in a teachers’ household, places them at high risk.  The recently released CDC guidelines make no mention of vaccinating anyone in a school before reopening.  Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of CDC stated earlier that teacher vaccinations are “important but not a prerequisite” for schools to reopen.  She explained that science finds that people are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 in their community than in their schools.  Reducing COVID in the community would reduce risk in schools.  The perceptions of teacher unions and school boards do not agree with this.  Teachers feel threatened by returning to the classrooms unvaccinated.  Many threaten to refuse to return until they are vaccinated.  As early as mid-January, governors in Arizona, Ohio, Utah and other states had moved up the eligibility for teachers and school staff to become vaccinated. Most of them now have received their shots.  Perhaps governor Lamont could easily do the same.  In any event, as more vaccine doses become available, school staff will soon be in an eligible group.

214. New CDC guideline: no quarantine required for vaccinated people

        Q:  Are people exposed to COVID  required to stay in quarantine?

        A:  Currently, there are no requirements that people who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 must be quarantined.  Statutes exist that could require this for exposure to any infectious disease when ordered by the governor.  COVID-19 has so many people possibly exposed that such a mandate would create chaos and invite violations.  But today, there is one situation where it is not recommended that someone quarantine.  The CDC last week issued the guidance that anyone who has been fully vaccinated (by completing their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine) need not quarantine if they come in contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19.

215. Caution issued: don’t copy, post or share your vaccination card

        Q:  I want to tell people I am vaccinated. Why shouldn’t I post my card on Facebook?

        A:  To encourage others to become vaccinated, many people were initially advised to tell friends and family they’ve gotten their shots, or post their card on social media, or send copies via e-mail.  The Better Business Bureau and several credit security agencies now caution against this.  Each vaccination card has personal information such as name and birthdate.  Scammers are everywhere looking for copies of this very familiar card to capture its information.  One scam is to copy your card and print duplicate phonies that could be sold.  Instead, the BBB recommends photographing your vaccine sticker – it doesn’t have any personal information.

[1] To open this website, copy the entire URL (the underlined letters in blue and copy this in your browser.