On Wednesday, March 3, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) updated its guidelines for the state’s schools and stated that “continued research shows mitigation measures allow safe in-person learning.”

It also stated that there’s a low transmission of COVID-19 among students and teachers.

In a press release sent Wednesday afternoon, the NCDHHS stated its opinion that, due to a number of health factors and considerations, the overall health of the state’s students was in more peril from kids staying out of school than from them attending school.

The release stated, “Recognizing the growing harms to children who are out of school and relying solely on remote instruction – including negative impacts on academics, mental health and food insecurity – the department’s updated guidance instructs schools to offer in-person learning to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols.”

The release went on to recommend that schools only use remote learning in limited situations – such as when there are extra-ordinary health risks for the student, or when a family desires for the child to continue learning remotely.

The NCDHHS cited improving COVID-19 numbers as a major factor in its decision.  

About a month ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its COVID-19 mitigation strategy for K-12 schools, and that strategy paper made clear the importance of reopening school and providing in-person learning and reestablishing key support services. 

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen stated in the March 3 press release that the scientific data is creating a clear picture.

“Extensive research tells us we can bring students back to the classroom with the right measures in place,” Cohen said. “And students need in-person school not only for academics, but to learn social skills, get reliable meals, and to continue to grow and thrive.”

One major consideration at play is that multiple studies have shown that younger children are less likely to spread COVID-19 to others than older teens and adults are.