The nation’s top public health agency has released a roadmap for reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic.

It emphasizes mask-wearing and social distancing and other actions but saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the long-awaited update Friday.

The CDC cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.

But they said there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade.

The CDC guidelines do not require vaccinations for teachers either, by the way. They are referred to as an "added layer of protection," and instead their guidelines focus on masks and social distancing as being the key elements.

"Our operational strategy specifically includes a component on vaccinations for teachers and school staff as an additional layer of protection," Walensky said.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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