Led by its School Reopening Workgroup, the Texas Medical Association is offering schools and physicians tools to mitigate risk for COVID-19 spread as classes resume across the state.
The workgroup – which consists of more than 20 physicians, including members of TMA’s COVID-19 Task Force, Council on Science and Public Health, Committee on Infectious Diseases, and Committee on Child and Adolescent Health – put together a package of new materials, including a one-page guide detailing four “legs” that form the table of a school’s sturdy COVID-19 infection control plan.
The four legs encourage schools to:
- Adopt safe procedures;
- Require safe behaviors;
- Create a safe environment; and
- Manage sick students and staff.
When students show symptoms of COVID-19 or become exposed, schools will face decisions on how to handle each instance on a case-by-case basis. That’s why the workgroup also developed TMA’s Decision Tree for School Nurses, which outlines the criteria school nurses should consider when assessing a child with common COVID-19 symptoms, and how to evaluate whether to exclude a symptomatic student from the classroom.
TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS) in a joint statement added that schools should require “universal use of masks at all practical times” and should use face coverings in combination with other infection control measures until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19.
“In school environments, where physical distancing of at least six feet can be difficult to maintain, the importance of correct mask-wearing grows,” TMA President Diana Fite, MD, and TPS President Tammy Camp, MD, said in the statement. Masks and face coverings slow viral spread even when the wearers don’t know they’re infected, they added, and “almost all staff and students can wear masks safely. Blanket exemptions for face coverings or masks are not appropriate unless for medically contraindicated categories.”
The school infection control document also notes: “High community transmission of COVID-19 can overwhelm even well-crafted plans.”
As physicians are trusted experts in their communities, TMA also developed a guide that shows doctors how to help campus leaders and families achieve a successful return to school. It includes tips and links to best-practice guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas Education Agency, American Academy of Pediatrics, and more.
As always, check TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly for more pandemic-related information.