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Do school fountains spread COVID? Why one district is giving students water bottles

Avi Bajpai, The News & Observer on

Published in Health & Fitness

RALEIGH, N.C. -- In North Carolina, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools is giving students water bottles they can top off throughout the day at bottle-filling stations installed at each of the district's 20 schools.

The school district notified families and staff that it was fitting water fountains that have been turned off since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with bottle fillers. The bottles will be given to students this month.

All CHCCS schools now have at least two bottle fillers, with plans to equip all remaining water fountains with bottle fillers over the next two months, said Eric Allen, senior executive director of operations.

The fountains are not being removed or replaced, Allen said. Instead, they're being fitted with attached bottle fillers.

"By shutting down the ability to drink directly from the fountains we reduce the (possibility) of someone drinking from the fountain after someone else touched it with their lips or saliva," Allen said.

The decision was made in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to avoid using public water fountains, Allen said.

 

As part of its guidance to gyms and fitness centers in July, DHHS advised, "Discontinue use of drinking directly from water fountains and provide disposable cups or labeled water bottles for individuals when using any water fountains."

The N.C. Office of State Human Resources also recommended disabling water fountains that lack touch-less features.

Last month, UNC-Chapel Hill caught flak for deciding to bring back a first day of class tradition and allowing students to line up to take a sip from the Old Well water fountain, which is said to bring students good luck.

Images of students waiting to get a drink from the fountain — which didn't happen last year due to the pandemic — drew criticism on social media from people who said resuming the practice amid COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations was a bad idea.

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