The CDC explained that the purpose of the individualized flow charts, or what they refer to as ‘decision trees,’ is to help guide administrators as they navigate difficult decisions related to reopening and the risk of spreading COVID-19. It is important to note that information provided by the CDC acts only as recommendations and do not act as requirements unless publicly adopted by federal and/or state officials. The recommended safeguards, however, have been requested by those federal and state individuals.
The CDC issued individual documents depicting three-phases for each type of organization, but all follow the same approach. CDC officials explained, “this is interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available. Please check the CDC COVID-19 website periodically for updated interim guidance.”
Officials indicated a goal to ensure the protection of children and employees that may be at a higher risk for severe illness and that regular, strict screening will take place upon arrival. Officials will be screening for symptoms and a history of COVID-19 exposure. The CDC indicates that if facilities are unable to ensure those standards are met, they are advised to remain closed.
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Once those baseline standards are accepted by the facilities, they are permitted to move into phase two of the guidelines published via the flowcharts. This phase focuses on whether recommended health and safety actions are in place such as healthy hygiene practices including washing hands and wearing cloth face-covering in addition to intensified cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation. Additionally, at this time facilities should ensure they can effectively train all of their employees on protocols prior to opening and consistently maintain social-distancing practices. The CDC indicates if facilities are unable to commit to any of those guidelines, again, they are encouraged to remain closed.
Facilities who have accepted and can ensure all of the aforementioned guidelines, the CDC approves them to move forward into the third and final stage of the reopening process. This round focuses on an infrastructure that permits “ongoing monitoring.” Facilities will be required to develop and implement procedures designed to test for symptoms of potential past exposure daily. This includes encouraging anyone who is sick to stay home and for them to have plans in place should employees or children become sick. Additionally, all facilities are required to be “ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area.”
Schools, daycares, and camps are required to meet every single safeguard outlined by the CDC before the health organization will acknowledge readiness to reopen. Additionally, even after opening, should any of the guidelines not be upheld, the facilities will be urged to close and reevaluate.
Below are the graphs depicting the above-mentioned phases issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s guidelines for schools offers the least industry-specific guidelines and can act as a general road map for other child-care organizations and businesses. It is also important to note that the document addresses schools (and or child-care facilities) that care for school-aged children kindergarten through 12th grade. It does not specifically address preschools or colleges/universities.
The CDC’s guidelines for daycares and child-care facilities essentially recommends similar protocols as those in place for schools (above) in terms of social distancing. The overall goal for both industries is to “monitor the distance between children not playing together and maintain distance between children during naptime.” Limited sharing of toys, supplies, and equipment is also encouraged.
CDC guidelines for extracurricular programs such as camps encourage those facilities to change activities and procedures with a priority on limiting sharing toys, supplies, equipment, and other belongings. Additionally, for social-distancing within these facilities, the CDC recommends spacing is increased through the creation of small groups that follow staggered scheduling including different arrival and drop-off times.