Coronavirus Reopening Guidelines

Reopening the US economy is an effort that requires the cooperation and participation of the entire nation.  It is vital to be vigilant in all aspects of your life – from the workplace to the grocery store to your own home. First and foremost, as we enter this transitional phase to reopening, it is vital that we continue practicing social distancing and other simple habits such as frequent hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings while in public spaces.

The first wave of COVID-19 has not ended. As we move towards reopening businesses, schools, and other public spaces, people that have never needed personal protective equipment will find themselves wondering how they should be protecting themselves, their employees, and their patrons. The Centers for Disease Control has issued special considerations for schools, restaurants, office spaces, and at home.

The first step to developing your COVID-19 reopening plan is to evaluate your location – what kinds of surfaces and materials make up this area? Routine cleaning will be necessary for most surfaces and objects. Surfaces that are touched frequently such as door handles will need to be cleaned AND disinfected.

The most important consideration for any type of business or location is planning and preparation. The guidelines on this page will deal with that aspect of reopening. If a positive case is detected in a school, business, or at home, the CDC provides steps to follow.

The coronavirus pandemic is a constantly changing, unprecedented situation. This page could be subject to frequent changes.

Reopening Considerations for Schools

Practices to prevent spread and stay healthy for staff and students need to be clearly outlined and strongly reinforced by school administrators. These include:

Review & Update Your EOP

Emergency Operation Plans (EOPs) need to be reviewed and revised to reflect the current pandemic situation. These plans should be made in cooperation with local health departments.

  • The plan should include strategies to mitigate the spread of a broad spectrum of infectious diseases. 
  • The EOP should place the emphasis on preventative measures – staying home while sick, social distancing, face coverings, frequent cleaning and disinfection, appropriately covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands often.
  • Any EOP should have blueprints for virtual education, meal programs, and other vital services should school dismissal be necessary.

Cloth Face Coverings

  • Educate, promote and assist in the use of cloth face coverings. When it comes to wearing face coverings for an entire school day, it can be a challenge – especially for younger students. Staff and students (especially older students) need to be wearing a cloth face covering whenever possible, but especially when physical distancing is not feasible.
  • Make information available to staff, students, and their families on proper use, removal and cleaning of cloth face coverings.
  • Do not place cloth face coverings on any person:
    • Under the age of 2 years old
    • That has difficulty breathing or is unconscious
    • Who is incapacitated or incapable of removing the face covering without assistance

Healthy Hygiene Practices

  • All staff should have clear training on hygienic practices so this knowledge can be transferred to students
  • Instill hand-washing guidelines that include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose/coughing/sneezing. Where soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizer can be used.
  • Be sure the school is adequately stocked with supplies to support and maintain these practices (talk to our team about stocking your school)
  • Strengthen Cleaning & Disinfecting Efforts

  • Frequently touched objects need to be cleaned and disinfected routinely. This will most likely include objects and surfaces that normally would not be cleaned daily.
  • Teachers should be provided with disposable wipes so that shared used surfaces (keyboards, desks, remotes) can be wiped down prior to use.

Information Sharing

  • Disease surveillance, tracking absenteeism, and daily reporting can be used to detect outbreaks and respond accordingly. Sharing this information with local health officials can help slow spread.

Track & Observe Absenteeism

  • Review typical absenteeism patterns
  • Stay home when appropriate – actively encourage employees & students who are sick or have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.
  • Alert local health officials when there are significant jumps in absenteeism (for both students and staff) – especially if related to a respiratory illness.
  • Discourage “Perfect Attendance” awards

Maintaining Healthy Environments

Ensure healthy hygiene habits & cleaning/disinfection protocols are clearly defined & reinforced

  • Where buses or other forms of transport are utilized by a school, all drivers need to be adhering to the same practices as the students and staff.
  • Start and maintain a schedule for more frequent routine cleanings and disinfections

Shared Objects & Spaces

  • Sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect should be discouraged. Sharing of electronic devices, toys, books, games, etc. should be avoided.
  • Close shared spaces such as cafeterias and playgrounds wherever possible. If not, use should be staggered, and equipment should be cleaned & disinfected between uses. 
  • Utilize barriers where physical distancing is not possible, such as plastic screens between bathroom sinks. 

Modify Student Seating Layouts

  • Wherever possible, students' seating/desks should be spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • All desks should be facing the same direction (rather than face each other) or students should be seated on one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • When possible, physically distance students on school buses

Signage & Physical Barriers

  • In locations where physical distancing is not feasible (for example: reception desks), barriers, such as sneeze guards, should be installed.
  • Utilize signage to ensure social distancing, hygiene, and cleaning/disinfection protocols are adhered to
  • Use this Safe Spaces Checklist thoughtfully and thoroughly as you prepare public spaces in your facility.

Assemblies, Visitors, & Field Trips

  • Consider postponing any non essential assemblies, meetings, or field trips. Move to virtual options wherever feasible.
  • Limit nonessential visitors, especially if nonlocal 

Reopening Considerations for Office Spaces

Use some of these guidlines from the CDC to update your existing workplace health & safety plan to include COVID-19 precautions. If your workplace does not have a health and safety plan, one should be developed.

Ensure Your Building is Prepared for Occupancy

  • If your office/building has been shut down for an extended period of time, check for hazards related to this such as mold, pests, or stagnant water systems. Remedy these hazards where necessary.
  • Verify that the HVAC system in your office is running properly.
  • If possible, increase the circulation of outdoor air in your facility by opening windows, doors, & using fans.

Identify Possible Areas of COVID-19 Exposure in the Workplace

  • Conduct a hazard assessment of your facility
  • Identify areas where employees are unable to maintain physical distancing such as meeting & break rooms, cafeterias, waiting areas, or exits & entrances.
  • Clearly communicate all changes with all employees. Alter communication plans if some employees are contractors.

Utilizing the Hierarchy of Control, develop strategies to mitigate transmission between employees

Engineering Controls – Remove workers from the hazardous area

  • Modify seating arrangements, furniture, and workspaces to maintain social distancing between employees wherever possible.
    • Utilize transparent shields or barriers where physical distancing is not possible
  • Use signage or other visual aids to aid in social distancing
  • Replace communal items that are touched frequently such as coffee pots, snacks, & water fountains. Substitute single use items where possible & encourage employees to bring their own water to work.
  • Consider updates and improvements to HVAC systems.

Administrative Controls – Change the way people work

  • Encourage employees who may be sick to stay home
  • Wherever possible provide employees with face masks
  • Conduct health checks of employees prior to entering the office (check for symptoms or temperature spikes)
  • Stagger schedules to maintain physical distancing
  • Encourage social distancing practices
    • Inform employees that they could still be spreading even if asymptomatic
    • Discourage handshakes, hugs, etc.
    • Utilize outdoor seating areas when possible. Discourage group gatherings