Back-to-School and Back-to-Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As the Fall season approaches, many families and individuals are getting ready for the new school year as well as going back to work. As many states and cities start to reopen, the CDC has continued to emphasize safety precautions to ensure everyone’s best health. This article covers what you can expect your children and yourself to encounter as we slowly come back up to speed.
Back To School
Depending on the state you reside and which schools you are enrolled in, health and protocol guidelines may differ. In university and college settings, many schools are opting to continue going entirely remotely while offering some services on campus to accommodate students’ needs. Other schools are following a hybrid system in which students have the option of attending class in person or taking classes remotely. For these students, student housing will likely be available to any students with limited guest access and proper isolation from other students. Many schools have implemented weekly screening protocols available for students to get tested for the virus and have reserved dorm spaces for students who may test positive for the virus during the school year. The government has urged public schools to reopen completely and have students, faculty, and staff return to campus. This has brought large controversy amongst teachers and parents who are concerned for the wellbeing of themselves and others.
According to Dr. Fauci and many other public health experts, Fall reopening of schools is likely and can potentially be successful if the correct guidelines are established and followed. These guidelines may include, but are not limited to, daily temperature testing for all members on site, frequent disinfection and sanitation of classrooms and other facilities, and proper social distancing measures. Many schools may decide to close playgrounds, provide testing kits, personal protective equipment, limit extracurricular activities, and limit students on buses. For students who rely on school meals as a major food source may face changes when schools reopen. Currently, many schools are practicing bus delivery systems to ensure children in need are getting the appropriate nutrients needed. When schools reopen, this may change to a different method, such as take-out or designated outdoor eating areas. Every state and school may have slightly different protocols in accordance with public health guidelines and it is important that you check with your schools to better understand their approach to reopening, specific to your needs.
Back To Work
As with the back to school protocols, working environments and employers must create and follow protocols in tandem with public health guidelines. The CDC suggests that companies and employers should discuss closely with state or city guidelines so they can plan according to the local status of COVID-19 and in accordance to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Guidelines and protocols will largely vary on the type of jobs as there are many different types that vary in extent of exposure and risk. The following are CDC recommendations for general establishment protocols that may apply to you. For more specific information, please contact your supervisor or appropriate persons.
- Actively encourage employees to stay home if they are sick
- Notify your employer that you are infected immediately and follow the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Only after they have quarantined the recommended amount can they return to their jobs
- Notify your employer if you are at high risk of infection or live with someone who is infected or high risk and follow CDC recommended precautions
- It is recommended to have regular private screening and health checks of employees prior to entering premises
- It is important that everybody is following social distancing and appropriate protective measures when doing this
- Consider needed PPE after a thorough hazard assessment of the premises
- Be able to separate sick employees, whether it is discovered upon screening or some time during the day, and transport them promptly to their homes or to a healthcare provider
- If it is within a week of the employee testing positive, restrict access to areas where they have been frequently and following the CDC disinfection protocol
- Notify other employees of possible exposure and ask them to take appropriate precaution while maintaining confidentiality
- Educate employees on how to take appropriate precautions and protective measures
- Allow flexibility for employees so they can stagger shifts to minimize crowds and facilitate social distancing
- This includes methods of transportation
- Encouragement of minimal contact transportation (e.g. walking, personal vehicle, biking) is recommended
- Be transparent about policies to employees for optimal safety
- Be prepared for flexibility with shifts and stay-at-home workers
- Be able to implement contact tracing efforts
If you are concerned about returning to work at all, it is important that you review your rights as an employee. Depending on different company policies, some may even face unemployment as a result of deciding to stay at home. Elizabeth Tippett, an associate professor at University of Oregon details in her article on The Conversation about different government policies that you may encounter in your questions and decisions in returning back to work. It covers questions and concerns such as being a parent, concern over high-risk environments at workplaces, post-exposure or contraction concerns, and many more. The article is referenced at the end of this article if you would like more information or answers to these kinds of questions.
By Emin Lee