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Pandemic Influenza School Closure Policies

Authors
Publisher
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Publication Date
Volume
13
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3201/eid1302.061109
Keywords
  • Letters To The Editor

Abstract

Inside Front.qxp LETTERS Pandemic Influenza School Closure Policies To the Editor: Holmberg et al. (1) are rightly concerned that state pan- demic plans in the United States rep- resent a patchwork without central coordination or direction. These con- cerns are particularly relevant for school closure decisions during an influenza pandemic. The US Department of Health and Human Services’ checklist regarding school closures gives conflicting messages (2). For example, it recommends that schools stay open during a pandemic and develop school-based surveil- lance systems for absenteeism of stu- dents and sick-leave policies for staff and students. It also recommends developing alternate procedures to ensure the continuity of instruction in the event of district-wide school clo- sures. These vague recommendations may reflect the paucity of data to rec- ommend school closure. To assess the current status of school closure decisions in the United States, I conducted an internet survey of all 50 state health commissioners during the spring of 2006. I asked the respondents 2 questions: “Who makes the school closure decisions in your state?” and “What absenteeism rate, if any, would prompt a school in your state to close during a typical influen- za year and/or during a pandemic influenza year?” Of the 44 responding states, I found that school closure decisions were primarily a local-level responsibility in half. Of these 22 states, closure decisions would be made either on a school-by-school or a school district–by–school district basis. Only 6 states indicated that school closure decisions would be made at the state level, and 16 states would have decisions made jointly at the state and local levels (Table). For a typical influenza season, only 6 states indicated that they close schools if a certain absenteeism rate due to illness were reached. For 5 of these states, the absenteeism rates ranged from 10% to 30%; the sixth state said its schools would close if the rates were anywhere f

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