On Thursday, May 7, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released sets of documents containing “tools” and safeguards designed to provide guidance on how businesses, and schools could begin the reopening processes during the COVID-19 pandemic. These were released after federal officials pressured the CDC to weigh in on reopening the United States public sectors, in order to minimize further damage to the economy.
For the reopening of K-12 schools, there are three stages of questions. The first stage involves the school’s ability to comply with both state and local stay-at-home orders. In order to reopen, it is imperative that schools be ready and able to protect both students and employees, especially those that are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The first stage concludes with the schools ability to screen all students and employees upon arrival for both symptoms and exposure history. The second stage is related to state and local guidelines, as well as promoting sanitary practices (such as hand washing, wearing cloth face coverings). Officials are encouraging social distancing by increasing space between students and utilizing small groups. Officials will also train all employees on current health and safety protocols that are in place. The third phase is related to current monitoring practices being implemented. Which includes the following; developing and implementing procedures to check for signs and symptoms of both students and employees daily, plans in place if a student or employee were to get sick, regular communication and monitoring with local authorities, employees, and families regarding any cases on possible exposures, as well as any updates on policies and/or practices. If a school answers no to any of the questions, then they are to remain closed until the safeguards are met.
These stages also recommend that until schools, child-care centers, and camps remain closed until they have the ability to implement screening protocols. This would include the ability to evaluate all employees and children for symptoms of COVID-19 as well as screening for any previous exposure to COVID-19.
At this time, colleges and universities were given an interim guide, as most institutions are done for the semester or currently in the process of remotely wrapping up. This guide states that “all decisions about implementing [institutions for higher education]-based strategies (e.g., class suspensions, event cancellations, and other social distancing measures) should be made in collaboration with local health officials.” This guide also includes instructions for these institutions in the case that someone on campus has tested positive for COVID-19, as well as how to move forward.
These safeguards have recommended that all workplaces should postpone reopening unless they are ready and able to protect their employees that are at a higher risk for COVID-19. This includes individuals aged 65 and older, as well as those of all ages that have been diagnosed with any underlying medical conditions related to COVID-19. If a workplace is able to protect these workers and makes the decision to move forward with opening, the CDC recommends increasing efforts of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting public spaces, as well as establishing various health and safety protocols that include but are not limited too; hand-washing, wearing a cloth face covering, as well as following the previously implemented social distancing guidelines. Although these guidelines are for re-opening, the CDC has advised all employers to encourage employees to stay at home if they feel ill.
The CDC urges restaurants, mass-transits, bars, and other work environments to implement similar screening protocols for their employees. The CDC has recommended against mass-transit services increasing any services unless they are able to implement measures to protect others against a “high-risk” environment for contracting COVID-19.
These flow-chart-esque documents state, “it is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.”, as it is important to follow these guidelines. If you see any public businesses reopening without following these guidelines, notify your local health authorities as soon as possible.