WASHINGTON (May 21, 2020) – The Centers for Disease Control publicly issued a 60-page set of guidance for the safe reopening of U.S. schools and businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
News reports on the quietly posted 60-page document say it calls for daily classroom and bus disinfection, temperature checks for all staff and students, eating lunch in classrooms and other specifics. Those specifics are not directly stated in the CDC guidance. Rather it provides a list of goals and how to respond to positive covid case findings, such as closing a facility for 2 to 5 days.
The guidance does call for school systems and businesses to create reopening plans in cooperation with local health officials.
The following is some of the school system-specific guidance in the CDC summary, which contains links to sets of recommendations:
The most important thing to do now is plan and prepare. Administrators should reinforce healthy practices among their students and staff. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Schools need to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities. Here are some strategies:
Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departmentsexternal icon and other relevant partners. Focus on the components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.
- Ensure the plan includes strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases (e.g., seasonal influenza). This includes strategies for social distancing and school dismissal that may be used to stop or slow the spread of infectious disease. The plan should also include strategies for continuing education, meal programs, and other related services in the event of school dismissal.
- Ensure the plan emphasizes everyday preventive actions for students and staff. For example, emphasize actions such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning frequently touched surfaces; and washing hands often.
- CDC has workplace resources such as posters with messages for staff about staying home when sickpdf icon and how to avoid spreading germs at workpdf icon.
- Other health and education professional organizations may also have helpful resources your child care facility or school can use or share. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides information on germ prevention strategiesexternal icon and reducing the spread of illness in child care settingsexternal icon.
- Reference key resources while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP:
- Multiple federal agencies have developed resources on school planning principles and a 6-step process for creating plans to build and continually foster safe and healthy school communities before, during, and after possible emergencies. Key resources include guidance on developing high-quality school emergency operations planspdf iconexternal icon, and a companion guide on the role of school districts in developing high-quality school emergency operations planspdf iconexternal icon.
- The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center’s websiteexternal icon contains free resources, trainings, and TA to schools and their community partners, including many tools and resources on emergency planning and response to infectious disease outbreaks.
Develop information-sharing systems with partners.
- Information-sharing systems can be used for day-to-day reporting (on information such as changes in absenteeism) and disease surveillance efforts to detect and respond to an outbreak.
- Local health officials should be a key partner in information sharing.
Teach and reinforce healthy hygiene practices.
- Train staff on healthy hygiene practices so they can teach these to students.
- Ensure handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- CDC offers several free handwashing resources that include health promotion materials, information on proper handwashing technique, and tips for families to help children develop good handwashing habits.
- Ensure adequate supplies (e.g., soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer, tissue) to support healthy hygiene practices.
Intensify cleaning and disinfection efforts.
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched. This may include cleaning objects/surfaces not ordinarily cleaned daily (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops). Clean with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label. For disinfection most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available hereexternal icon. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
- Provide EPA-registered disposable wipes to teachers and staff so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down before use.
- Ensure adequate supplies to support cleaning and disinfection practices.
Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
- Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your school among both students and staff.
- Alert local health officials about large increases in student and staff absenteeism, particularly if absences appear due to respiratory illnesses (like the common cold or the “flu,” which have symptoms similar to COVID-19).
- Review attendance and sick leave policies. Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick, even without documentation from doctors. Use flexibility, when possible, to allow staff to stay home to care for sick family members.
- Discourage the use of perfect attendance awards and incentives.
- Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff.
- Determine what level of absenteeism will disrupt continuity of teaching and learning.
Assess group gatherings and events. Consider postponing non-critical gatherings and events.
- Ensure you have a clear understanding of all upcoming gatherings and large events for your school community (e.g., assemblies, field days, spirit nights, athletic events). Give special consideration to events that might put students, staff, or their families in close proximity to others from communities that may have identified cases of COVID-19.
- Consider whether any of these events should be canceled. Speak with local health officials to help determine the best approach.
Require sick students and staff to stay home. Establish procedures for students and staff who are sick at school.
- Establish procedures to ensure students and staff who become sick at school or arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible.
- Keep sick students and staff, particularly those with symptoms of respiratory illness, separate from well students and staff until they can leave. Plan to have areas where these individuals can be isolated from well students and staff until they can leave the school.
- Remember that schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. If a community (or more specifically, a school) has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.
- Share resources with the school community to help families understand when to keep children home. This guidance, not specific to COVID-19, from the American Academy of Pediatrics can be helpful for familiesexternal icon.
Create and test communications plans for use with the school community.
- Include strategies for sharing information with staff, students, and their families.
- Include information about steps being taken by the school or child care facility to prepare, and how additional information will be shared.
- Test communication capacity, and reiterate steps staff, students, and families can take to stay healthy and guidance that they should stay home if sick.