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Disclosures: Beers reports no relevant financial disclosures.
August 19, 2020
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AAP revises guidance on reopening schools

Source/Disclosures
Disclosures: Beers reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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The AAP updated and expanded its previous guidance on the reopening of schools, which was published in May.

“We put in stronger language to highlight the racial and economic inequities that have existed in the implications of the virus itself, as well as the resources that schools receive in order to ensure that they could adequately open in a safe environment for staff and for students,” Nathaniel Beers, MD, MPA, FAAP, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and co-author of the guidance, told Healio.

Source: Adobe Stock
Source: Adobe Stock

Beers said that if cases arise and children are sent home from school, some children may be at a disadvantage when it comes to access to certain resources, such as online learning.

Nathaniel Beers

“I think the issues that we highlighted are that the evidence continues to mount that Black and Latinx communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, and that also plays out in communities which have lower socioeconomic status as well,” he said.

The AAP emphasized a need for federal assistance in some areas to support U.S. schools, especially in areas where resources may not be available.

Sally Goza

“Without more resources, these disparities will worsen,” AAP President Sally Goza, MD, FAAP, said in a statement. “Whatever school looks like this fall, we must be innovative and promote the well-being of all children, particularly children living in marginalized communities.”

According to the AAP, the ultimate goal is to have students return to school this fall. To do this, the AAP updated its recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect students, teachers and staff.

It said all adult staff and any student aged older than 2 years should wear a cloth face covering while in the school building — in line with recent AAP guidance saying all children aged 2 years or older can wear cloth face coverings safely.

“We had mounting support for a stronger stance relative to use of face coverings,” Beers said. “Where we had provided more opportunities for younger kids to go without face coverings, the evidence continues to support that children are capable of wearing face coverings, as long as they get practice and good modeling from adults in their lives, such as teachers, families, parents and other adults.”

The AAP also recommended that students and desks be 3 to 6 feet apart for social distancing.

“We actually didn't have a previous stance of 6 feet; that stance was from the CDC,” Beers said. “What we did was highlight the article that came out in The Lancet on June 1, as well as the evidence of schools in other countries that were able to successfully open with 3 feet of physical distancing without increases in their community spread rates.”

The AAP said that the decision to reopen schools for in-person learning should be based on the guidance of local and state public health officials, as well as school administrators.

Other recommendations included:

  • Cohorting students to minimize crossover among students and adults;
  • Using outdoor space, when possible;
  • Promoting hand and cough hygiene and increasing cleaning and disinfection;
  • Implementing protocols to ensure students and staff do not come in when ill.

Beers said that the AAP continues to emphasize the need for families to connect with their pediatricians to ensure students are receiving timely vaccinations, especially with influenza season approaching.

“Given the similarities in the symptoms for COVID-19 and flu, we want to make sure that we minimize the number of children that have flu-related symptoms this winter and fall,” he said.

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