No field trips. No game rooms. No teddy bears. These are some of the CDC's guidelines for reopening schools, childcare centers and day camps safely in places where coronavirus cases are on the decline.
The guidance, which also covers restaurants, churches and other public places, was obtained by The Associated Press, which reports that the White House tried to keep it from coming to light. The New York Times quoted Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, as being concerned that the guidelines were "overly prescriptive."
The CDC does not have authority to enforce its guidance, which is intended for public information only; the actual policy decisions are up to state and local governments. Schools are closed through the end of the school year throughout much of the country, with the exception of Montana, which welcomed a handful of students back this week. Child care protocols are different in different states.
But millions of parents need child care so they can work, and socialization and stimulation for children who have been confined to home by lockdowns for weeks on end. This is the guidance that summer camps and day cares have been waiting for to make decisions about reopening safely.
The guidance says that where coronavirus is spreading rapidly, child care should only serve the children of essential workers. This is the case today in much of the country, which the guidelines refer to as "Phase 1".
In Phase 2, programs can expand to serve all children with enhanced social distancing measures, and in Phase 3, with a lower risk, social distancing will continue.
Recommended measures include:
Cloth masks for staff;
Regular disinfection of all surfaces;
Six-foot distance "if possible," head-to-toe positioning with bedding;
As much outdoor air as possible — open windows, fans;
Restricting mixing of groups;
Restricting visitors, and staggering dropoffs and pickups to reduce contact among parents;
Limiting sharing of materials like art supplies or toys. Disinfecting them in between use.;
Avoiding soft toys that can't be easily disinfected;
Not using common areas like dining halls or playgrounds if possible. If it is necessary, stagger visits and disinfect in between;
Adjust operations based on local health data;
The guidelines also emphasize keeping attendance at such programs local, to limit children bringing the disease from high to low transmission areas.