Families and school districts are weighing difficult decisions on whether to return to school in person, online or a combination of both during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"No matter what education model is chosen -- in-person, distance learning or a hybrid of the two, we want to provide guidance to parents, children, teachers and staff on how to stay as safe and healthy as possible this school year," says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic. "These tips will be familiar, and they continue to be the most effective ways we have to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Certain strategies may be more effective for certain age groups of children. A combination of strategies is important because no single measure provides 100% protection from exposure," says Dr. Rajapakse.
Practice safe distancing.
When possible, follow safe social distancing of at least 6 feet, even when wearing a mask.
"COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when coughing, sneezing, talking or singing," Dr. Rajapakse says. "When you're unable to wear a mask, such as when eating in the cafeteria, social distancing is even more critical to reduce the risk of virus transmission."
Wear a mask.
Wear a mask to limit the spread of respiratory droplets.
"It's a great idea for students, teachers and staff to keep a clean backup mask somewhere convenient, like their backpack, locker or desk," notes Dr. Rajapakse. "Make sure to clearly label your child's mask with his or her name, and teach children never to share or trade masks with others."
Clean your hands frequently.
Wash your hands with soap and water, or apply and use hand sanitizer frequently. For appropriate use of hand sanitizer, follow these steps: