The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to relax itsrecommendations in the coming days, starting with schools, just as students head back to the classroom.
CBS News obtained a copy of the CDC draft document outlining the rationale for the change. While not yet final, the changes could include deemphasizing the "test to stay" strategy, in which students exposed to COVID-19 take regular tests to stay in the classroom. Schools would also be free to unwind strict social distancing measures, which the CDC's guidance has already effectively phased out.
Revisions to simplify and streamline a broad swath of the CDC's other setting-specific guidance, including for travel, health care settings and high-risk congregate settings, such as nursing homes, are also expected to be published soon.
News of how the planned shift could affect the agency's schools guidance was first reported by CNN.
"This virus is going to be here with us in the days ahead, and we have got to learn to live with it," infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm told CBS News.
Michael Cornell, superintendent of Hamburg Central School District in western New York, said his students need to get back to normal.
"If the CDC is going to say we should go back to school relatively normally, with minimal restrictions, then count me in," Cornell told CBS News. "We have to focus on is making sure our kids experience joy, value and connections in school, because those things were all taken away from them for two and a half years."
The proposed changes are raising some concerns, as less than half of school-aged children are fully vaccinated, and the majority of Americans are living in communities with high rates of COVID-19.
Among other proposed changes in the draft document is that those exposed to COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated would no longer need to quarantine, instead masking for 10 days and testing five days after exposure. In the draft, the CDC notes the large percentage of the population with COVID-19 antibodies, as well as a desire to limit social and economic impacts, as its reasoning behind removing the quarantine recommendations.
Furthermore, the CDC would no longer require contact tracing after known exposures except in health care or high-risk congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities and homeless shelters, the draft states.
Osterholm, meanwhile, said the virus is also still evolving.
"As this virus continues to change over time, we might be revising these guidelines again," he said.