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COVID-19 FAQs for School

Student wearing mask.

August 10, 2020

The University of Kansas Health System's chief medical officer Steve Sites, MD, and infectious disease specialist Dana Hawkinson, MD, share their answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and the new school year.

  • We are always concerned about safety and right now these vaccines look safe. We know there's a lot of debate around vaccinations, but we need everybody to get on board and get the vaccine when it becomes available.

    Vaccines save lives, which is why it's important that people make an informed decision about the coronavirus vaccine.

  • Yes. They need the emotional, spiritual and physical interaction with other children and teachers. There should be some physical distance, however. We know that children age 10 and above may be able to spread the disease like adults can, but we are still determining if children below the age of 10 can spread the disease.

    The safest way for kids to interact is to have them wear masks and continue to maintain as much distance as possible. We recommend 6-10 feet apart, but some organizations, like the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, say 3 feet.

  • No, not with the current testing capacity. That could change if we can flatten the curve again. We know the biggest spread of COVID-19 occurs with large gatherings. When we stop large gatherings and people are not congregating in groups of more than 10, it's going to be much better. Practicing social distancing and wearing a mask will help decrease the spread of this virus, which will make schools safer.

  • Yes. At this point, we are not sure we'll get down to zero community cases until we get some sort of vaccination or some other means of immunity from COVID-19.

  • Social distancing by rearranging tables is vital. We recommend wearing your mask, removing it when you sit down to eat and putting it back on when you’re finished eating. If you can go outside and eat, that can be beneficial. You can eat safely, but you have to be thoughtful about how you do it.

  • Practice with children often before school begins. Talk to them and encourage them to wear their mask. You can also model the behavior by wearing a mask.

    There is no data that shows a face shield is better. We still believe that the mask, whether it's a cotton face covering or a surgical-type mask, is best.

  • It is possible to be safe on the bus if the children practice social distancing. If there is separation between the occupied seats and children wear masks, it will decrease the risk as much as possible. It's going to be difficult, however. The bus is a very contained environment, and children are generally there for longer than 10 minutes. In these cases, you may want to consider having your child use eye protection or eye goggles as well as a mask while on the bus.

  • We don’t have a good answer for this yet. We are looking for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local boards of education. You will always be safer by wearing a mask in the classroom.

  • The United States has a different philosophy regarding states' rights, and the decisions are being made on a county-by-county basis.

  • We are not sure if that would help because so many people are asymptomatic, especially children. Asymptomatic means that you do not have any symptoms, but you may be sick. If there are other symptoms present, then you should screen for a temperature. Overall, temperature screening continues to be controversial.

  • It depends on how widespread the virus is in the county and if everyone can observe the pillars of infection control (wearing a mask when possible, maintaining physical distance, keeping hands clean and not touching your face). Outdoor activities are generally safer. Indoor activities may be more of a challenge.

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