The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released long-awaited guidelines today for how to reopen schools safely and quickly during the pandemic, as the Biden administration tries to resolve a heated debate that has divided many communities.

The plans are significantly more detailed than anything that came from the Trump administration, and they draw from the growing body of scientific evidence that shows that schools can open safely if they provide overlapping layers of precautions.

Most notably, the C.D.C. said that elementary students could receive at least some in-person instruction safely, even at high levels of community transmission, and that middle and high school students could attend school safely at lower levels of community transmission.

The new recommendations also try to carve out a middle ground between parents and school officials who are eager to have schools reopen, and powerful teachers’ unions resisting a return to school settings they regard as unsafe.

To help us sort through the new guidelines, we turned to Apoorva Mandavilli, who covers science for The Times.

“The main takeaway from the entire report is that the C.D.C. wants to make it as easy as possible for schools to reopen and stay open,” Apoorva told us. “They’re saying, ‘Really, there’s no reason for elementary schools to close.’”

The report did not call for all teachers to be vaccinated before returning to classrooms, which is sure to disappoint some teachers and their unions. It also changed recommendations for social distancing, which previously led many schools to switch to hybrid learning because of a perceived lack of space.

“They say elementary schools should stay open throughout and physical distancing is only required at the highest level of transmission,” Apoorva said. “That is very different. The scientists I talked to said: ‘The way I’m reading this is: Physical distancing is ideal, but don’t worry about it if you can’t do it. Bring all the kids back.’”

Schools have reopened partially or are starting to reopen in New York City, Chicago, Boston and other large cities. But conflict between elected officials who support reopening and teachers unions seems likely to continue in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland.

The president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, said she was concerned about the guidelines’ lack of emphasis on air quality and was not happy about what she perceived as wiggle room in the language on physical distancing.

F.A.Q. How will these guidelines affect local schools near you? How do they compare to the old recommendations? Times education reporters answered many common questions.

What experts say: The Times surveyed 175 pediatric disease experts about whether it was safe to open schools. They largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time and in-person instruction now. Most said vaccinations of a certain group (such as teachers, parents or students) should not be a precondition to school openings.


Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, and it’s a tough time for young love.

Social distancing and lockdowns have complicated dating, and the pandemic added an extra layer of expectations and judgments to sex and relationships. For some singles, the pandemic has brought its own set of challenges, and it has been particularly harsh for some. For those craving physical touch, Valentine’s Day is just another reminder of what they are missing.

That’s why some people are arguing that the holiday should be reconsidered this year, or perhaps done away with altogether. They say that a mass-market holiday that pressures people to spend money on things they don’t need feels out of step with the times, and that gratitude, as many of us have learned during the pandemic, should be expressed freely all year.

Jancee Dunn, the author of “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids,” writes in The Times that she normally enjoys the holiday. But this year, after nearly a year in lockdown (while remote-schooling her daughter), she and her husband aren’t feeling particularly amorous. So in anticipation of the holiday, she sought relationship advice from people used to long periods of isolation: astronauts and others who are required to live under extreme and isolating conditions.

The words from Chris Hadfield, a retired astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency, ring true for many of us who might otherwise blow past an opportunity to spread a little extra love. “Recognize that this isn’t a timeout in your life,” he said. “This isn’t an interruption or an imposition on your life. This is your life.”


  • In the United States, a handful of states have administered more than 80 percent of the doses they have received. And the situation is improving in every state.

  • Hungary has begun administering the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine made in Russia, sidestepping the European Medicines Agency to become the first European Union member state to use the vaccine.

  • New Zealand will receive the first batch of its order of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and expects to begin vaccinating its border workers on Feb. 20, one month ahead of schedule.

  • Massachusetts is allowing caregivers to be vaccinated if they accompany residents who are 75 and older, giving rise to an online market for mature companions.



My family of five all contracted Covid over the holidays, but I am the only one who continues to experience a loss of smell and taste weeks later. I am the chef in our household, but now I depend on my husband to be my taste tester. I am also constantly anxious about leaving things on the stove or not blowing out a candle before leaving the house. I didn’t realize how much I depend on my sense of smell for safety.

— Tesalia de Saram, Queens, N.Y.

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