COVID: HOW SCHOOLS AND PARENTS CAN STOP THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
Staying Up to Date on Vaccinations
Staying up to date on routine vaccinations is essential to prevent illness from many different infections. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect eligible people from getting severely ill with COVID-19. For COVID-19, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is the leading public health strategy to prevent severe disease. Not only does it provide individual-level protection, but high vaccination coverage reduces the burden of COVID-19 on people, schools, healthcare systems, and communities.
Staying Home When Sick
People who have symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, such as cough, fever, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea, should stay home. Testing is recommended for people with symptoms of COVID-19 as soon as possible after symptoms begin. People who are at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 who test positive should consult with a healthcare provider right away for possible treatment, even if their symptoms are mild. Staying home when sick can lower the risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19, to other people. For more information on staying home when sick with COVID-19, including recommendations for isolation and mask use for people who test positive or who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, see Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19.
Schools and ECE programs can optimize ventilation and maintain improvements to indoor air quality to reduce the risk of germs and contaminants spreading through the air. When COVID-19 Community Levels increase or in response to an outbreak, schools and ECE programs can take additional steps to increase outdoor air intake and improve air filtration. For example, safely opening windows and doors, including on school buses and ECE transportation vehicles, and using portable air cleaners with HEPA filters, are strategies to improve ventilation.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
Washing hands can prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Schools and ECE programs should teach and reinforce proper handwashing to lower the risk of spreading viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Schools and ECE programs should monitor and reinforce these behaviors, especially during key times in the day (for example, before and after eating, after using the restroom, and after recess) and should also provide adequate handwashing supplies, including soap and water. If washing hands is not possible, schools and ECE programs should provide hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizers should be stored up, away, and out of sight of younger children and should be used only with adult supervision for children ages 5 years and younger.
Schools and ECE programs should teach and reinforce covering coughs and sneezes to help keep individuals from getting and spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Schools and ECE programs should clean surfaces at least once a day to reduce the risk of germs spreading by touching surfaces. For more information, see Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. Additionally, ECE programs should follow recommended procedures for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfection in their setting such as after diapering, feeding, and exposure to bodily fluids. See Caring for Our Children.
Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator consistently and correctly reduces the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. At a high COVID-19 Community Level, universal indoor masking in schools and ECE programs is recommended, as it is in the community at-large. CDC also recommends masking at all times in healthcare settings, including school nurses’ offices, regardless of the current COVID-19 Community Level. People who have known or suspected exposure to COVID-19 should also wear a well-fitting mask or respirator around others for 10 days from their last exposure, regardless of vaccination status or history of prior infection. Anyone who chooses to wear a mask or respirator should be supported in their decision to do so at any COVID-19 Community Level, including low. At a medium and high COVID-19 Community Level, people who are immunocompromised or at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 should wear a mask or respirator that provides greater protection Since wearing masks or respirators can prevent spread of COVID-19, people who have a household or social contact with someone at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 (for example, a student with a sibling who is at risk) may also choose to wear a mask at any COVID-19 Community Level. Schools and ECE programs should consider flexible, non-punitive policies and practices to support individuals who choose to wear masks regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level.
Schools with students at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 must make reasonable modifications or accommodations when necessary to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities, are able to access in-person learning. Schools might need to require masking in settings such as classrooms or during activities to protect students with immunocompromising conditions or other conditions that increase their risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 in accordance with applicable federal, state, or local laws and policies. For more information and support, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Disability Rights webpage. Students with immunocompromising conditions or other conditions or disabilities that increase risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 should not be placed into separate classrooms or otherwise segregated from other students.
Screening testing identifies people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms or known or suspected exposures, so that steps can be taken to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in K-12 schools. However, at a high COVID-19 Community Level, K-12 schools and ECE programs can consider implementing screening testing for students and staff for high-risk activities (for example, close contact sports, band, choir, theater); at key times in the year, for example before/after large events (such as prom, tournaments, group travel); and when returning from breaks (such as, holidays, spring break, at the beginning of the school year). In any screening testing program, testing should include both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Schools serving students who are at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19, such as those with moderate or severe immunocompromise or complex medical conditions, can consider implementing screening testing at a medium or high COVID-19 Community Level. The type of viral test used can vary and includes over the counter or at-home testing (self-testing), point-of-care rapid testing, or laboratory testing.