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Cook Children's issues COVID-19 safety recommendations as children return to school

The recommendations urge schools to keep taking the coronavirus threat seriously and to have specific procedures in place.

DALLAS — As children in Texas return to school in the fall, a group of physicians in Fort Worth recommend face masks and more be part of the new-normal routine.

Cook Children's Health issued recommendations for COVID-19 precautions and safety measures when children return to schools in the fall, while also emphasizing the positive benefits of that return even with the coronavirus seen as a lingering concern.

"I think we're comfortable with Texas going ahead but it can't be just putting on face masks and hoping for the best," said Dr. Marc Mazade, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Cook Children's Health. He, along with input from more than 50 physicians, authored "Recommendations for the Practical, Fair, and Safe Reopening of Public Schools K-12 in the State of Texas."

Face coverings are recommended for all students while on campus and on buses when social distancing cannot be maintained. 

"I think with the very young children, compliance is going to be difficult," he said of classroom use of masks, suggesting that when students are lined up entering or leaving classrooms that a "win" would be having those younger students at least wearing masks then.

"The older children are really just going to have to get used to the idea that things are different now," he said of the recommendation of wide-spread use of face coverings.

The recommendations also include health education for students, parents, and school employees on the importance of hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Enhanced environmental hygiene is urged for school staff to frequently clean shared equipment including computers, door handles, light switches, and other surfaces.

Cafeteria use is discouraged, unless proper social distancing can be maintained. Otherwise Mazade suggests lunches be served in students' individual classrooms.

And with COVID-19 outbreaks linked to multiple church choirs, the report recommends schools avoid indoor choir and band rehearsals until conditions improve.

"We're really recommending that until there is no longer sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the community that choirs not rehearse again and that we spend our time on other aspects of music."

Credit: Cook Children's Health

Temperature checks and screenings are not recommended however. Mazade says they have not been shown to be an accurate method of identifying people possibly infected with COVID-19.

"We give ourselves a false sense of security by doing temperature screenings," he said.

But Mazade says they also recognize the importance of kids being in school, to help make sure they are socialized and fed and their mental needs cared for too.

"The recommendations that we put together help to remind people that we're looking at the whole child here," he said.

You can read the full recommendations here.

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