New Guidance from Infectious Disease Doctors Advises Parents, Schools

By Richard M. Long

Recommendations from infectious disease experts give school administrators, parents and educators advice on reopening schools

What do parents, educators, and school leaders need to know about transmission of Covid-19 and how it might impact school reopenings this fall?

Members of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) joined education organizations for a webinar to present what is known, suspected, and unknown about the Covid-19 pandemic as it impacts the opening of school buildings around the nation.  Throughout this thoughtful presentation were two important caveats: One, the information is changing rapidly; and two, school buildings exist within communities and cannot be isolated within themselves.  The webinar was moderated by Dr. John King of The Education Trust (a sponsoring organization), and presenters were Wendy Armstrong, MD, FIDSA, FACP; Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases Emory School of Medicine and IDSA Board of Directors; and Tina Tan, MD, FIDSA, FAAP, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and IDSA Board of Directors. The event was sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National PTA, and the Learning First Alliance joined 15 other organizations as supporters.

How much at risk are young children under the age of 10? As of early July, the data seems to indicate that children are not highly susceptible to Covid-19; however, they could well be carriers and children do get sick from the virus – just fewer of them as compared to adults.  Over the ages of 10 to 20; children seem to progressively become more susceptible to the point that by age 20, they have equal susceptibility as adults.  Among the unknowns, are if young children will carry the virus within their systems and it will emerge when they are adults. 

How can the risks of infection be reduced? The panel was clear that there are several key actions:

  1. Wearing a mask, and when that is not possible, wearing a face shield is better than not wearing anything.
  2. Maintaining six feet social distancing.
  3. Reducing the number of people each student or adult come in contact.
  4. Washing hands regularly.
  5. Washing areas where people touch or many pass.
  6. Having good ventilation and air movement.

Additionally, schools need to plan for the likelihood that, at some point:

  • Students will come to school infected and will need to be isolated.
  • Contact tracing will be needed and information must be communicated to students, families, and staff.
  • Children who need to see teachers’ faces will need to be in very small groups.
  • Some schools may have to use tents to have the ventilated space they need.
  • Team sports that involve contact are likely to be superspreading opportunities.
  • Programs like choir and band are also likely to be superspreading activities.
  • Changing behaviors is going to be very hard.

Several countries have successfully reopened public schools. Typically, they have had strict rules and adherence to those rules by the community. However, IDSA officials noted that information on infection rates is changing.

To watch the presentation or view the materials, please go to:









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