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CDC offers guidance on students and staff returning to schools

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Posted at 2:20 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 14:20:38-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered updated guidance on how to protect students and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19 as communities across the United States consider reopening schools.

The full updated guidance can be found on the CDC's website here, below you will find key points.

The CDC says the more interaction and the longer the interaction between individuals the higher the risk of spread of COVID-19. The risk of spread in a school setting are as follows:

  • Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
  • More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
  • Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.

"COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered in this document," the CDC said.

Encourage reducing the spread:

Staying Home when Appropriate - Educate staff and families on when to stay home and when it is appropriate to return.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette - Educate staff and students on handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring.
Cloth Face Coverings - Educate staff and students on the use of face coverings.
Adequate Supplies - Provide adequate supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible) and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans.
Signs and Messages - Post signs that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread.

Maintaining a healthy environment:

Cleaning and Disinfection - Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily or between uses as much as possible.
Shared Objects - Discourage the sharing of items and keep each child's items separated.
Ventilation - Ensure ventilation systems operate properly.
Water Systems - Ensure all water systems are safe to use after a prolonged shutdown. Clean and sanitize water fountains regularly, but encourage the use of water bottles to avoid use of fountains.
Modified Layouts - Ensure desks/seating are six feet apart when feasible.
Physical Barriers and Guides - Install physical barriers in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained. Provide tape guides on floors/walls to help maintain social distancing.
Communal Spaces - Communal spaces should be closed, if they cannot be closed stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.
Food Service - Have children bring their own meals as feasible, or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead. Use disposable food service items.

Maintaining healthy operations:

Protections for Staff and Children at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19 - Schools should offer staff and students at high risk for severe illness options to limit their exposure.
Regulatory Awareness - Follow state and local regulatory guidelines on gatherings.
Gatherings, Visitors, and Field Trips - Pursue virtual gatherings and field trips. Limit non-essential visitors as much as possible.
Identifying Small Groups and Keeping Them Together (Cohorting) - Students and staff should stay within the same group as much as possible.
Staggered Scheduling - Stagger arrival and drop-off times to limit contact between groups.
Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact - Designate a staff member as a point of contact for COVID-19 related concerns.
Participation in Community Response Efforts - Consider participating with local authorities in COVID-19 community response efforts.
Communication Systems - Put systems in place that allow students, families and staff to report if they have COVID-19 symptoms, may have been exposed, or have tested positive.
Leave (Time Off) Policies and Excused Absence Policies - Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices to allow for staying home when sick or staying home to care for someone who is sick.
Back-Up Staffing Plan
Recognize Signs and Symptoms - Conduct daily health checks if feasible.
Support Coping and Resilience - Encourage staff, students and families to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-19

Preparing for if someone gets sicks:

Advise Staff and Families of Sick Students of Home Isolation Criteria
Isolate and Transport Those Who are Sick
Clean and Disinfect
Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts