Steps Students and Teachers Can Take
Adherence to COVID-19 health precautions is key to improving the safety of a school community. These principals may become the new normal for daily practice until a scientifically-validated vaccine or therapy is identified. The following is a brief summary of the critical components of a school-wide health and wellness plan.
8.20.2021: All K-12 students, teachers, administrators, school staff and visitors should wear face masks throughout the day while on school property, according to the latest guidance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Education on how to safely choose, wear, care for, clean or discard and store masks should be provided to encourage adherence. The CDC provides guidance for masks for children and mask cleaning and maintenance on its website. Promoting personalized masks with the school logo or creating masks for students in different classes, houses, clubs or sports teams may also encourage use. Masks made from cotton fabrics with high thread counts and random fiber orientation have been shown to be efficient for preventing release and exposure to droplets and aerosols. In contrast, elastic fabric materials are not recommended due to large pore size, resulting in lower filtration efficiency. Masks should be properly sized and provide coverage of both the nose and mouth. A mask with an exhalation valve is not recommended. Reusable masks can be washed or stored 2 to 3 days between wear. Rotating between at least three masks will allow for safer reuse of masks. Alternative arrangements should also be made for students who are unable to wear a face mask due to developmental, respiratory, young age, or other physical conditions. Do NOT put masks on children younger than 2 years old. It is critical for members of the school community to understand that wearing a mask is not a replacement for physical distancing or other guiding public health principles. Schools should be aware of “mask fatigue” with younger children. “Free Mask” breaks can be scheduled during the school day where students can take off their mask under teacher supervision while physically distanced (>12 ft or 4 meters apart) outdoors.
Face shields are not a replacement for masks. Face shields are effective at limiting the spread of large droplets released when a person coughs or sneezes; but they offer less effective protection against the release of smaller aerosol transmissions of the virus. A face shield can be worn in addition to a mask, but face shields should not be worn without a mask unless substantial physical distancing is also possible.
All members of a school community should be consistently reminded to wash their hands as frequently as possible. Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, which is equivalent to the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice. If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used. For hand sanitizer to be effective, all surfaces of the hands must be covered and then rubbed until dry. It is especially important for students, teachers, administrative staff to wash their hands after touching common surfaces or their face, after they cough or sneeze and after using the restroom. Accessing online hand washing tutorials is a good way to remind children and adults of proper hand washing methods, which are not always properly followed regardless of age.