Teacher Health and Safety During COVID-19

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

As students, teachers and faculty return to class, safety is on everyone’s mind. A summer spent largely separate from group gatherings helped contain the spread of COVID-19. Now, teachers and students are returning to school, where everyone hopes that safety measures will protect them from the virus.

Here are steps teachers and administrators can take to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading at school.

 

Create social bubbles.

Keeping groups small and not having them interact with other groups creates “social bubbles.” During lockdown, your household was your bubble. At school, your classroom or work area is your bubble. Many schools will have smaller class sizes and take other measures to minimize interaction. This way, if someone has COVID, it can only spread so far, and cases can be quickly identified. Do what you can to ensure students, teachers, and administrators stay within their bubble at all times.

 

Consider the air you breathe.

COVID-19 is an airborne virus. This means that the risk comes more from what you breathe than what you touch. That’s why it is essential for students, teachers and administrators to:

  • Wear a mask anytime you are around other people.
  • Maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from others (but the more, the better).
  • Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.

Ask a custodian what kind of air-handling system the school has. Is the air being filtered? Is UV light used to sterilize the air?

Even better: If your school and the weather allow, hold classes outdoors whenever possible. More on outdoor learning during a pandemic.

 

Minimize germs. 

Pandemic or not, handwashing is important — especially in schools. A healthy school population reduces lost learning time due to sick days and creates a better learning environment.

  • Scrub for 20 seconds with soap and warm water thoroughly after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Never touch your eyes or nose if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Hand sanitizers are useful in a pinch, but handwashing is much more effective.

Sanitize tables and surfaces where germs could be spread, but never at the expense of your personal breathing bubble. This might mean wiping down the classroom after or in between classes to minimize close contact with others. 

 

Symptoms? Take extreme caution.

  • Any student with symptoms of COVID-19 — mild fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, body ache, diarrhea — they should be sent to the school nurse immediately for evaluation. 
  • Teachers or faculty experiencing any of the symptoms listed above should stay home and talk to a doctor for evaluation and next steps. If your employer provides you with First Stop Health telemedicine, you can get care in MINUTES via phone or video. Learn more about telemedicine and COVID-19 in our Coronavirus Resource Center.

 

 

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