Local Dignity Health pediatrician discusses back to school safety

As school districts consider how to reopen, Dignity Health St. John’s Hospitals want community members to stay informed of precautionary measures to minimize exposure of COVID-19. Pediatrician Imelda De Forest, MD, shares steps parents can take to help protect children, teachers, and administrators as they prepare to head back to school.

“Parents are concerned for the health and well-being of their children as they return to the school setting, and as partners in health care, we want to share best practices for minimizing risks of exposure to the children in our communities,” says Dr. De Forest. “As we enter the new school year, taking precautions against getting or spreading the virus will help flatten the curve and move toward resuming more typical schedules and school days.”

Dr. De Forest encourages gentle, age-appropriate conversations between parents and children to review hygiene practices, such as the importance of handwashing and coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Daily parental monitoring of children’s temperature and overall health and wellness is also essential, and keeping unwell children home is recommended. Ongoing conversations about how the pandemic may alter the school day will help provide awareness and understanding to children when encountering changes.

“We are proud to partner with local hospitals to educate the community about how to best protect their children during this pandemic,” says Dr. De Forest. “We want to do our part to keep local parents and children informed about how to stay safe and healthy as they return to some regular activities.”

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidelines for reducing the coronavirus spread and maintaining a safe and clean school building:

  • Cleaning/disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the school and on buses at least daily.
  • Limiting the use of shared art supplies, toys, and gym equipment.
  • Keeping each child’s belongings separated from others.
  • Ventilation systems that circulate outdoor air.
  • Space seats and desks at least six feet apart. Turn desks that face each other to face the same direction or have children sit on one side of a table.
  • Create space on buses by keeping one child per row and skipping rows if possible.
  • Install barriers and sneeze guards where needed, like in offices, or tape lines on floors or sidewalks.
  • Close all communal spaces like cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds.
  • Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms with disposable utensils.
  • Setting staggered arrival and drop-of times to limit contact between students and parents.

The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings for teachers and students to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of two.

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