A look at the super-sanitary steps already in the game to make sure the kids are fine.
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Even before the pandemic, parents were aware of the risk of infection from schools and childcare facilities. The sight of this one child with the constantly runny nose in the delivery area triggered a feeling of the inevitable: If this child goes, my own goes too.
Don't leave a child behind … while they're wearing a mask
Fortunately, the evidence shows that the real risk of coronavirus transmission in schools and childcare facilities is quite low. More importantly, these facilities now have a wealth of experience in making personal education and aftercare services safer than ever.
Lessons from the pandemic should reduce the likelihood of these attitudes spreading colds, influenza, and even the next virus. But education officials need to apply the best practices developed from the pandemic that prevented them from becoming super spreaders in the first place.
Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics offers some insight into future practices to keep children safe. The academy conducted a study of childcare workers that remained open during the first gruesome months of the pandemic. The data were surprising: Contrary to gloomy predictions, daycare centers did not become super spreaders. As the coronavirus raced through the US, causing mass shutdowns for schools and businesses, the operators, who were legally allowed to stay open, safely did.
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A (heavily disinfected) checklist
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, shows how a few relatively simple measures can have a profound effect on preventing transmission.
The first measure started before the children or staff entered the area. Parents were asked if they had any of the symptoms suggestive of illness and temperature controls were then taken for both children and staff. People with temperature or symptoms were refused entry and monitored until they were healthy.
Next, operators looked at the threat posed by asymptomatic children and employees. One of the main reasons for the rapid transmission of COVID-19 is that many of those infected had no symptoms. In the early months of the pandemic, behavioral measures were taken to prevent transmission.
They disinfected touch-sensitive surfaces such as doorknobs, fittings, hands, toys, books and teaching materials. All materials that could not be disinfected were removed. Children and employees had to wash their hands regularly and wear masks and other personal protective equipment. Sharing food, toys and pens was prohibited. Social distancing measures have been put in place, including dividing children into groups and separating them at any time.
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Schools adopted similar practices when they returned to personal education. The interesting thing about the study in pediatrics is that these child carers were implementing these practices at the beginning of the pandemic without being asked to do so by local or state authorities.
This is good news for parents in need of childcare or aftercare. The operators of the pediatric study were the least regulated during the pandemic. They were actually allowed to stay open when everyone else across the country was closed. They kept their children safe by following some basic safety protocols.
There will be a return to personal schooling and childcare, and the new normal seems safer than ever.
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