August is always a bittersweet time of the year. It’s sweet as it’s the month of both my and my brother’s wedding anniversaries, and it’s bitter because the nights get cooler. For many parts of the world, August means back to school shopping and for many parents, the end of August can’t come soon enough to get kids back to school. This year, back-to-school is also bittersweet. There is concern with what potential there is for COVID-19 spreading within the classrooms, but on the other hand, there is the recognition that our children need to get back to some sense of normalcy.
For some, after five months, the initial anxiety surrounding COVID-19 is wearing off and we’re becoming accustomed to life in masks. However, with the emails many parents are receiving regarding back-to-school plans, followed by changes in recommendations and widely different strategies being used across North America in order to reopen schools, many are concerned we are using our children as subjects of an experiment with more confounding variables than we can control for.
Data from the CDC indicate that <1% of the hospitalizations among 508 cases reviewed were <19 years old and none of the cases <19 years old were admitted to the ICU. One of the concerns with children, however, is the fact that 2 – 4 weeks after initial infection, a very small percentage children develop a more severe disease known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. It is certainly understandable why as a parent, our anxiety may be increasing as the start of school draws nearer.
However, all is not lost. We do have experts working together to create the right plans and helping to ensure the safety of our children. We have our Medical Officers of Health and Infection Control Experts supporting and recommending needs; however, we also have organizations that are experts in cleaning and disinfection putting together recommendations to support the ability to keep schools clean and free of germs. One well-put-together document is from Health Green Schools & Colleges. Their guideline outlines practices for cleaning and disinfection practices that can be taken to care for the health of school staff and their charges.
A key way to reduce spread is to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection, especially high-touch surfaces like student desks, stair railings, doorknobs, and light switches. We also need to look at removing hard to disinfect soft surfaces and items like rugs, fabric covered chairs and pillows and perhaps even some hard surfaces like touchscreens and remote controls. As we look at increasing frequency of cleaning, this also means that there could be an increase chance of exposure to disinfecting chemicals. This highlights the importance of choosing a responsible product that provides a balance between efficacy and safety as well as considering how products will be applied.
What would be my recommendation for implementing a cleaning and disinfection program for my son’s school?
- Choose a product that does not carry any health and safety concerns, meaning it is non-toxic and non-irritating to eyes and skin.
- Choose a product with a contact time of 3 minutes or less for the high-touch surfaces to ensure when applied the contact time can be achieved.
- Move away from a spray-wipe application. This reduces the generation of aerosols which can impact indoor air quality, but more importantly, using a pre-moistened wipe allows for a one and done process that can reduce time while providing the most effective results.
- Training. Cleaning for health is different than cleaning for appearance. The need for proper application, adherence to contact time and focusing on the most important surfaces is key.
As a parent, we also need to help support efforts by teaching our kids infection control practices that will further help reduce the chance of transmission – I’ll touch more on that next week!