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Are CDC guidelines on reopening schools as stringent as blogs claim?

Trust Index examines popular blog post on CDC guidance

In the post-coronavirus world, will children wear face masks in school and only eat lunch in their classrooms?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is what is recommended.

Shortly after the CDC released its guidance, several parental blogs published their own posts on the recommendations.

One site in particular, Kids Activities Blog, published a post with a graphic that summarized the main points of the CDC’s guidance. That graphic has been shared nearly 50,000 times on social media by itself, with some parents wondering how realistic the guidelines are and if schools must follow these recommendations to the letter.

While the graphic is mostly accurate in capturing the CDC’s suggestions, some of the claims are not as clear-cut as it suggests.

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The first bullet point on the list states, “wear masks if over the age of 2.”

The CDC does recommend face coverings should be worn by staff and it is “encouraged in students.”

While the agency does say children younger than 2 should not wear face masks, the guidance does acknowledge the difficulty in making younger children keep it on.

“Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school,” according to the guidance. “Face coverings should be worn by staff and encouraged in students (particularly older students) if feasible."

The graphic goes on to state that children will be allowed “only pre-packaged boxes or bags of food instead of hot lunch lines.”

The CDC advises against using communal spaces, like cafeterias and playgrounds, and recommends sharing items be limited as much as possible. Lunches may end up being served in classrooms, but they would not necessarily be pre-packaged or in bags.

“If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead. Serve individually plated meals and hold activities in separate classrooms and ensure the safety of children with food allergies,” the CDC recommends.

If cafeterias or playgrounds are used, the CDC recommends releasing students on a staggered basis so the equipment or room can be disinfected between each use.

The guidance also suggests canceling field trips, assemblies and activities with external organizations to reduce exposure.

Like the blog pointed out in its original post, it’s still on local school districts to determine the best way they can safely reopen.

With the guidance still so new, local school districts told KSAT they are still working on their own plans.

“We will work on guidelines this summer- but it’s a little early at this point,” said Aubrey Chancellor, Executive Director of Communications for Northeast ISD.

Northside ISD Executive Director of Communications Barry Perez issued a similar statement.

“We are in the process of planning and developing the protocols and procedures to be used for the re-opening of our schools both for summer learning opportunities as well as for the new school year. Those plans are not finalized,” he said.

With the summer lying ahead, schools will have some time to decide how to best reopen while reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Below are the majority of the claims on the graphic, followed by the specific CDC guidelines:

Wear masks if over the age of 2:

“Face coverings should be worn by staff and encouraged in students (particularly older students) if feasible and are most 46 essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Information should be provided to staff and students on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings. Face coverings are not recommended for babies or children under the age of 2, or for anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance.”

No sharing of items or supplies:

“Keep each child’s belongings separated and in individually labeled storage containers, cubbies, or areas and taken home each day and cleaned, if possible. Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible (art supplies, equipment etc. assigned to a single child) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use. If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing of foods and utensils. Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, other games, and learning aids.”

Clean and disinfect frequently touched services:

“Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the school and on school buses at least daily (for example, playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) as well as shared objects (for example, toys, games, art supplies) between uses.”

Desks should be 6 feet apart:

“Space seating/desks to at least six feet apart. Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.”

One child per seat on school buses:

“Create social distance between children on school buses (for example, seating children one child per seat, every other row) where possible.”

Install sneeze guards or partitions:

“Consider installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, and changing workspace layouts to ensure all individuals remain at least six feet apart.”

No shared spaces, including cafeterias and playgrounds:

“Close communal use spaces, such as game rooms or dining halls, if possible; if this is not possible, stagger use and disinfect in between uses. 42 If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead. Put each child’s meal on a plate, to limit the use of shared serving utensils and ensure the safety of children with food allergies.”

Pre-packaged boxes or bags of food instead of hot lunch lines:

“If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing of foods and utensils.”

“If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead. Serve individually plated meals and hold activities in separate classrooms and ensure the safety of children with food allergies."

No field trips, assemblies, or external organizations in schools:

Cancel all field trips, inter-group events, and extracurricular activities (Step 1). Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance of those from higher transmission areas (Step 2; Note: restricting attendance from those in Step 1 areas). Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups at the same time."

Stagger student arrival and departure times to limit crowds of kids:

"Stagger arrival and drop-off times or put in place other protocols to limit direct contact with parents as much as possible.”

Read the full CDC plan below:


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