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Guidelines for Getting Back to School During a Pandemic

school_lockers_shutterstock_471514187_2As government and schools discuss opening again this fall, we have to look at it in a very different way. COVID-19 has not gone away and is still spiking in many states. As we know, the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread by respiratory droplets, but can also be spread if you touch a contaminated surface then touch your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands. How is this going to be contained in a school setting? What will make us feel a little safer in thinking about sending students back to school? We really do not have all the answers, but should administer a plan to keep everyone as safe as possible. Here are some guidelines to follow before reopening.
1. Remain aware of changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus. Implement infection prevention measures accordingly. 
2. Assess the hazards to which staff and students may be exposed; evaluate the risk of exposure; and select, implement, and ensure everyone use controls to prevent exposure. 
3. Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by staff, students, and visitors.
o Put sanitizing hand  dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled
o Display posters promoting hand-washing
4. Cleaning and Disinfecting
Your environmental staff or hired cleaning contractor should be well trained on the proper procedures of cleaning and disinfecting. Routine cleaning and disinfecting plays a big part in keeping everyone safe.
Cleaning should be performed per established protocol set by the school, followed by disinfection.
You should always clean surfaces with an all purpose cleaner, preferably 3rd party Green certified or soap and water to remove visible dirt. This decreases the viral load and helps optimize the efficacy of the disinfectant. 
5. Other forms of disinfecting rooms and surfaces 
6. What should be disinfected
o All cleanable surfaces should be disinfected daily
o High touch points should be cleaned and disinfected multiple times per day specifically during a pandemic:
1. Restrooms/Bathrooms:
a. Doorknobs or handles
b. Light switches and cover plates
c. Paper towel dispenser knobs or handles
d. Faucet handles
e. Toilet and urinal flush levers
f. Toilet and urinal partitions, doors
(including knobs, levers or slides)
g. Other items identified locally
2. Lunchrooms/Cafeteria:
a. Refrigerator door handles
b. Microwave door handles and buttons/keypads
c. Table tops
d. Doorknobs or handles
e. Light switches and cover plates
f. Vending machine buttons
g. Drinking fountain
h. Other items identified locally
3. Locker room:
a. Doorknobs or handles
b. Light switches and cover plates
c. Other items identified locally
4. Classroom and office space:
a. Doorknobs or handles
b. Light switches and cover plates
c. Telephones
d. Other commonly touched items identified
locally (e.g. keyboards, keypads, copiers, etc.)
5. Other locations:
a. Elevator call and operating buttons
b. Stairway handrails, doorknobs, light switches
c. Hallway doorknobs, handles, drinking fountain
d. Vehicles’ steering wheels, door handles, shift
knobs, dashboard controls
Germs can accumulate much faster in these areas due to the amount of times they are touched.2
Finally once your school has been cleaned and disinfected, make sure everyone is following the masking protocol and practicing social distancing. For more information on school guidelines, see CDC Considerations for Schools and for information on operating  procedures for emergency childcare facilities click here.
I hope these tips will help guide you in the right direction. Remember we are all still unsure about returning our children back to school, but we are also in this together and if we follow the proper steps and guidelines, it will help us maintain a safe environment.
           2-COVID-19 Resources for Custodians

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