The CDC's new guidelines for how states can safely start to reopen include "Interim Guidance" for childcare programs, schools and day camps
Girl in a medical mask washes tables in a school class during the quarantine period
Teacher cleaning desk
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Schools may be coming to a close for the summer for most, but many parents are beginning to send their children back to childcare or to day camps in an unprecedented time amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently shared detailed guidelines for how states can safely start to reopen after months of stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including "Interim Guidance" for childcare programs, schools and day camps.

In the 60-page document, the CDC breaks childcare guidelines down into three sections — Scaling Up Operations, Safety Actions and Monitoring and Preparing, with subsections in multiple steps concerning proper hygiene, disinfecting/cleaning, social distancing and preparing for/handling if employees, children or visitors become sick. They also recommend restricting care for children of essential workers, if possible, and encourage being extra diligent for those at higher risk of contracting severe illness.

The CDC's recommendations for Safety Actions > Promote Healthy Hygiene Practices in terms of reopening childcare facilities include but are not limited to:

  • Proper hand-washing
  • The use of cloth face masks
  • Resistance to touching one's face
  • Provide adequate amounts of soap, as well as hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content
  • Post signs about how to practice safety measures

For Safety Actions > Intensify Cleaning, Disinfection and Ventilation:

  • "Clean, sanitize, and disinfect" equipment and surfaces that are touched often (e.g., playground equipment, sick handles, door handles, drinking fountains) "multiple times a day"
  • Try not to use items that aren't easily able to be cleaned/sanitized
  • Ensure proper ventilation in a safe way (i.e., opening doors/windows only if this doesn't pose another safety risk, like for children with pollen allergies)
  • Ensure water systems like drinking fountains are safe to use after not being used for a prolonged period of time due to closures
  • Keep cleaning/disinfecting products away from children

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Cute pupil writing at desk in classroom at the elementary school. Student girl doing test in primary school. Children writing notes in classroom. African schoolgirl writing on notebook during the lesson.
Students in class
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For Safety Actions > Promote Social Distancing:

  • Keep children with the same staff/other children all day as much as possible
  • Limit visitors to the facility
  • Prohibit any field trips, extracurricular activities, etc., and for any activities that are required, maintain proper social distancing
  • Space desks/seating/napping at least six feet apart, and face them in the same direction as opposed to toward each other
  • Close communal areas like playgrounds and dining halls or, if not possible, have children use them in shifts and practice proper disinfection between shifts
  • Limit sharing of eating utensils, art supplies, electronic devices, toys, etc., and plate children's meals separately
  • Practice social distancing in pick-up/drop-off areas, on school buses, etc.
  • Avoid immediate contact with each other (hugging, handshaking, etc.)

For Safety Actions > Monitoring and Preparing:

  • Screen children when they arrive, if possible, in a confidential and safe way re: temperature checks and symptom evaluation
  • Separate children who show symptoms of COVID-19, but do not leave them unattended
  • Follow privacy laws while also notifying staff, family and local health officials about any suspected COVID-19 cases, and advise them not to return for the recommended amount of time at home in isolation
  • Wait as long as possible to clean areas exposed to a sick staff member/child (ideally, at least 24 hours) to limit exposure to the person doing the cleaning
  • Regularly check data about your area's local coronavirus spread, "and adjust operations accordingly"
Teacher among school kids using computers in class
Teacher with students
| Credit: Getty

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The CDC also recommends monitoring for patterns in the spread of COVID-19 throughout the facility and dedicating a single person to be in charge of coronavirus-related concerns, as well as the implementation of flexible sick leave for staff and diligence to training staff in COVID-19-related guidelines.

For schools and day camps, the guidelines are very similar, with the added note of practicing distance learning and restricting camps to essential workers, if at all possible.

"Schools that are currently closed, remain closed," the CDC says. "E-learning or distance learning opportunities should be provided for all students. Support provision of student services such as school meal programs, as feasible."

The organization also provides guidance for bus operators and, whether for schools, camps or childcare facilities, implores staff to train back-up individuals for when teachers/care providers are out, provide emotional support for employees and children and more.

School Decision Tree
CDC School Decision Tree
| Credit: CDC

As of Wednesday, all 50 states have reopened in some capacity, though hardest-hit areas like Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. are still shut down. Reopening has become politicized, with small groups of protesters storming state capitols to demand restrictions be lifted and a split down party lines between which states have reopened and which have not.

New COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend nationwide, though some states, including Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota and Arizona are currently seeing spikes. Friday morning, more than 1,584,827 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus and at least 94, 722 have died, according to a New York Times database.

The above is not a comprehensive list of guidelines. For the full set of detailed CDC guidelines on how states can safely start to reopen across industries — including step-by-step advice for childcare facilities, schools and day camps — visit

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