Here's what the CDC guidelines for reopening schools actually recommend, including mask-wearing and closing playgrounds

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Here's what the CDC guidelines for reopening schools actually recommend, including mask-wearing and closing playgrounds
A teacher and student in a private school in France, May 12, 2020.Stephane Mahe/Reuters
  • On May 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for reopening schools.
  • A meme circulating through social media pans them as excessive and impractical, but mischaracterizes some of what the CDC laid out.
  • The considerations include encouraging people who are sick to stay home, emphasizing handwashing, and seating students at least 6 feet apart if possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidelines for schools and childcare centers as some make plans to reopen.

The recommendations range from keeping kids and teachers who are sick home to staggering drop-offs and creating small groups of students who only closely interact with each other.

But the guidance was panned in a widely-shared meme on social media, which paint the recommendations as excessively strict and impractical.

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However, in many instances, the meme doesn't accurately reflect what the CDC's considerations — which are just that, not mandates — actually say.

"Schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community," the CDC guidelines say. "Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community."

Here's some of what the document encourages school administrators, parents, and teachers to consider. For the full guidance, visit the CDC's website.

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  • Encourage staff and kids to stay home if they're sick or have come into close contact with someone who is by implementing flexible leave policies and ditching attendance awards.
  • Enforce good hygiene, like handwashing for at least 20 seconds, using hand-sanitizer in the absence of soap and water, and sneezing into a tissue that's subsequently tossed.
  • Support mask-wearing among older kids and staff members, especially when physical distancing isn't possible.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces at least daily, if possible, and only share toys or supplies if they can be cleaned between uses.
  • Modify room layouts, like by spacing desks 6 feet apart and keeping all kids facing in the same direction rather than toward one other.
  • Install partitions in places where keeping a 6-feet distance is difficult, like at reception desks and between sinks.
  • Close cafeterias and playgrounds, or stagger their use and disinfect in between uses.
  • Have kids bring their own food, or serve individually-plated or bagged meals — as always, if feasible.
  • Try to keep the same small group of kids with the same staff.
  • Stagger drop-off and pick-up times if possible.

While it seems children are less susceptible to COVID-19 and are less likely to be hospitalized, they may be asymptomatic carriers of disease.

"Each infected child infects two to three other children a week, who then infect their parents and grandparents," Jorn Klein, an associate Professor in Microbiology and Infection Prevention, at the University of South Eastern Norway, told Reuters. "From a pure infection prevention perspective, it does not make sense to keep the schools and kindergartens open."

In France, 70 new cases of the coronavirus were recently reported after the country opened some preschools and elementary schools, even with social distancing in place.

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