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Can Schools “Go Back to Normal” After COVID?: Here’s What We Know Now…

It’s official: we have now reached the first anniversary of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Most kids have not been able to return to school since Spring Break of 2020, and the kids who have are experiencing school in a completely different way. March 5th was when most K-12 schools in the United States shut their doors and did 100% virtual learning. Although the CDC left it up to the local government’s discretion, most schools became completely remote in late March. It was not until the fall classes of 2021 where we saw a mix of online and virtual learning (hybrid-model learning) occurring through many districts. 

Virtual and hybrid learning has left many students unable to maintain schoolwork, socialization with friends, and even access to food. Many schools have now re-started in-person learning, but with COVID vaccines not being readily available for people under 16, schools need to know  how to meet the CDC guidelines for in-person learning. This article will discuss current school policies, mask mandates, and the future of K-12 education.

Current COVID-19 School Policies in 2021

COVID restrictions and policies within the school system are constantly changing, with new policies emerging almost every week (check to see what your state’s current school COVID policies are). The four highly-discussed policies include; vaccinations, social distancing, masks, and health checks.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

At this moment, children under the age of 16 do not qualify for vaccinations. While tween and teenagers under the age of 16 are expected to be approved for vaccination by the 2021 fall semester, younger children have a longer wait time. Currently, vaccines are being trialed on a small sample of pediatric patients. Still, it could be months (or even years) for young kids to get the vaccine, with immunocompromised children being the priority.

Social Distancing & Masks

The CDC is encouraging schools to enforce social distancing to 6 feet at all times. Many schools have socially distanced their students’ desks and added dividers to contain the spread of airborne particles. Face masks have been enforced at a majority of in-person schools, where most children are not allowed to take them off for the whole school day. “[Face masks and social distancing] are incredibly important in areas that have high community spread of COVID-19, which right now is the vast majority of communities in the United States,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated in early February.

Sanitizing

Although schools did basic sanitizing practices pre-COVID, the CDC guidelines have doubled down on required sanitizing practices. K-12 schools are required to have sanitizing stations wherever possible. Cleaning areas of high traffic will not eliminate the germs, so teachers and school administrators must practice disinfecting. Disinfecting is the practice of clearing with chemicals designed to kill 99.9% of germs. Students should also wash their hands and use hand sanitizer throughout the day. To learn more about the differences between cleaning and disinfecting, you can read more on the CDC website.

Health Screenings

Just as a person would take temperature checks when making a doctor’s appointment, the same goes for students returning to school. If a child or a close family member has been sick with the following symptoms, parents must keep children home for at least three days or until a medical professional clears them:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What’s Going on With the Mask Mandates?

Since March of 2020, most states have required children over the age of 10 to wear masks while out in public. Many schools that started with in-person classes in the fall of 2020 also required all students over the age of two to wear a mask during school hours. With states like Texas, Mississippi, and Iowa lifting their mandates, schools have mounting pressure to adapt quickly. This has left many parents and administrators questioning if schools will still require masks until the vaccination. 

It seems that the best way to help students get face-to-face interaction with their peers and teachers is by wearing masks during school hours. Even in the states that have lifted their mask mandates, many local governments, businesses, and schools still require masks or face coverings. Here are some of the most common questions regarding masks and children:

Why are mask or facial coverings needed in schools?

At the beginning of the pandemic, scientists found that many people are asymptomatic (not showing signs of being ill). Face masks reduce the transmission rate in areas where you cannot guarantee social distancing, and they add a double layer of protection when proper social distancing is in place.

What is the best mask for a child?

Our team recommends our KN95 masks or our 3-Ply ASTM 1 masks. These are the most effective facial coverings to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses. Although the CDC approves reusable cloth masks and neck gaiters, we do not recommend using them as a standard facial covering.

A great rule of thumb for masks: to get the mask’s full protection, your child should wear a mask that covers from nose to chin.

Learn about if your state is lifting its mask mandate by checking out the CDC website.

What Does This Mean for Classes in the Future?

While no one can accurately predict the future for face-to-face learning in schools, our best bet is that the “normal” we knew pre-COVID has changed: we know that some schools plan to keep a form of hybrid learning for the foreseeable future. Education leaders will have a better understanding in the fall of 2021 when the first round of children under 16 are vaccinated. Still, in the meantime, we recommend staying up-to-date on the CDC’s PPE recommendations for schools

The CDC website lists the supplies needed to start in-person learning, including soap, a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), disinfectant wipes, masks and no-touch trash cans.

If you are a school administrator, we would love to hear your thoughts on what has been discussed and your feedback on education during the pandemic. If you are interested in ensuring your kids, faculty, and teachers are safe, we provide subscription-style care packages designed perfectly for a school of any size. We would love to partner with you to continue keeping kids safe and help them succeed in school.

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CDC Updates: Breathe Easier. And Preferably Outside…

Image of the men from the cartoon King of the Hill.

On Monday, October 5, the CDC revised its Covid guidance, removing the confusion created in September with its previous commentary. Previously, the CDC said that it “erroneously posted guidance saying the coronavirus spreads through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet.” The revised page clarifies and prioritizes the risk associated with various ways that Covid can spread.

Covid Spreads Easily

That Covid spreads easily is not news, but the CDC says the Covid virus spreads more efficiently than influenza but not as easily as measles

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Mask? N95? Face Shield? Help!

If you’ve been donning a face mask every day and wondering if you have the right one—or the best one—or the most-approved one—we’re here to help. The wide range of face coverings sported by people these days is breathtaking. Pun intended. Many comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. Others might not. And depending on what you do, it might not matter. Here’s a rundown of the face covering terminology and types that can help you decide which to use.

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Masks – Re-use or Toss? The Pros and Cons of Each

We get it. Choosing the appropriate face mask for yourself or employees can be a challenge.

Of course, you want protection….

Style is a definite plus….  

Comfort is key too, especially if you have to wear a mask all day at school or work. 

For most people, the choice comes down to reusable cloth masks or disposable face masks, such as surgical masks. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends simple cloth face coverings for members of the public, and they suggest washing them every day in the laundry. Simple is good, right?

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Just When You Thought…

Image of yes no and maybe speech bubbles.

On Monday, September 21, the CDC took back some of its previous guidance on coronavirus, and it was….well, a bit confusing. Even the World Health (WHO) was confused.

In its own words, the CDC said that it “erroneously posted guidance saying the coronavirus spreads through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet.” What does this mean? That the guidance is still correct but the CDC didn’t mean to post it? Or that the CDC believes coronavirus does not spread through airborne particles? That it cannot travel beyond six feet? Or that it can’t be spread by particles that do not remain suspended? The agency did not exactly say that either.

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Re-open the salon? Is it safe? More importantly – Where do I start?

Image of a barber with a yellow background.

Lets be honest, nothing is for certain and there has been pretty terrible guidance from the top on these safety questions. But the group of entrepreneurs that we’ve seen with the most hustle has to be salon owners. When your family dream of opening your own business is on the line you just do what you have to do to get it done. There are no guarantees but there is evidence that opening can be safe when its done right – and if you’re fighting to keep your dream alive it doesn’t mean you need to be reckless – you need balance. Here at CPD we’re spending time with a group that just recently got to re-open in our local area – Salons and Spas. In polling salons, we started by giving you a care package specifically designed to allow a stylist with a single station to get what they need to start right away. Its our Hair Salon Re-Opening Kit and its specially priced to be about 25% below the list price of buying all the parts separately but more importantly it provides enough disposable masks, wipes, and sanitizer to keep your station clean for a month or more.

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Protecting yourself from wildfire smoke

Image of people overlooking a city skyline full of smoke.

Smoke-driven air quality is once again an issue throughout CA – also happens to be the home of the Care Package Direct team. We’re in the process of helping friends and family with evacuation plans which is heart-breaking but we’re doing what we can to help. For everyone else there is the air quality. It can cause activation of asthma issues, COPD, and worse if it gets really bad. There are things that everyone could do. I believe Kaiser Permanente had summarize thing quite nicely and its worth summarizing and providing these resources to everyone. And if there is anything else we can do to help, we’ll be here. 

Follow basic precautions for wildfire smoke and poor air quality:

  • Check air quality reports and use common sense. Air quality can change quickly. If it’s smoky, avoid outside activities.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Close doors and windows.
  • Set your car air conditioner to recirculate air instead of drawing in outside air.
  • Consider going somewhere with better air quality if you have symptoms from smoke that aren’t getting better.
  • Have a plan for where you’ll get care if needed, if you evacuate or leave the area.

There are some important differences you should understand between masks that protect you from smoke (N95 or KN95 masks) and those that protect you and others from COVID-19.

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Where to start? How about Masks…

State of California’s quick explanation of the proper way to use protective masks.

Probably the most obvious place to start is with masks. Care Package Direct was created with a mission to make sure small businesses and small organizations have a reliable supply of what they need to reopen. As we studied reopening across the United States it became obvious that good, bad, or indifferent, small organizations were going to need a reliable supply of quality masks. The above video is one on the proper use of masks created by the CA health department.

So what should small organizations do? Well, there are a couple of typical use cases for you. First, your employees are the top consideration. We carry top quality disposable masks that are ASTM Level 2 certified (which is a certification for use in surgical situations and definitely good for current COVID-19 situations). One interesting concern employees we’ve talked to is wearing reusable masks all day long irritated their sensitive facial skin and in some cases even caused them to “breakout”. Now this isn’t a scientific study proving causation, its just a concern brought up to us. Our first step was to carry the disposable masks that were synthetic material and designed for everyday use. The material is meant to be gentler than cotton but still water and vapor resistant. This was our first mask supply priority. Thats not to say we won’t have reusable masks in the care packages in the future, its just to say we are tackling the toughest problems first.

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