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Getting back to school: Education resources and FAQs

New guidelines from PA Department of Health for phased reopening of Pre-K to 12 schools

Check this page for the latest information on COVID-19, including frequently asked questions and downloadable resources to help reopen your school — safely.

As students, faculty and staff return to their classes and dorm rooms, we want to make sure you have the resources you need to safely reopen your facilities. This includes information on how to keep your students and staff healthy and safe once school is back in session.

Here you’ll find frequently asked questions (FAQs) and additional resources you can reference any time. Bookmark this page and check back for the latest updates.

To help keep students and staff safe and healthy, it’s best to focus on 4 main areas:

  • Masking
  • Social distancing
  • Handwashing
  • Personal responsibility


Click the below links for additional resources, FAQs and information:

Downloadable resources

Read our FAQs

Additional resources

Social distancing

Social distancing, also known as physical distancing, is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself and others safe from being exposed to the coronavirus, therefore reducing the spread.

Social distancing means maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people.

Here are some tips to prepare for a safe return to campus:

Tips for a safe adjustment back to campus:

  • Follow floor markings, signs and tape set up to promote social distancing.
  • If possible, choose to use the stairs over the elevator. When the elevator is being used, limit it to 2 people in at a time.
  • Avoid sharing equipment and tools, such as phones, laptops, writing utensils and other items.
  • Tips to stay engaged and safe:
  • Encourage and establish alternatives to handshakes (think waving, placing a hand over your heart or making a peace sign).
  • Use telephone, video conferencing, email and text messaging to communicate in place of study sessions or group meetings.
    • If unavoidable, keep in-person meetings brief and held in a place where everyone can stay 6 feet apart.
  • Video call with friends to stay safe and social during breaks between classes.
  • Avoid gathering in common areas, such as the library, outside of classes and in food halls.
Handwashing

According to the CDC, COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours or even days. Wash your hands often to protect yourself from the virus.

Here are some tips to help you wash your hands properly and protect yourself from getting sick:

  • Wash your hands, including the backs of your hands and between your fingers, often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in public areas.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially if you haven’t recently washed your hands.
Personal responsibility

We’re all in this together. To slow the spread of COVID-19, everyone has to help.

Here are some key points to help you do your part:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often and vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask in public. The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected, but it also helps protect you.
  • Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others, even when masked.
  • People without symptoms can still spread the virus — in fact, you could give COVID-19 to others, even if you don’t feel sick.

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COVID-19 updates: Visit Geisinger's Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information and helpful resources.

Fill out the form below and a member of our Health and Wellness team will be in touch:

Downloadable resources

The below resources are available to download and share on your social media channels or print to hang in your buildings. You can also visit our coronavirus blog for the latest in COVID-19 health and wellness.

For elementary school students:

Athletics/Student Health Toolkit

CHIP - Child Health Insurance Plan

Información en español:

FAQs

Where can we obtain safety, cleaning, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products?

At Geisinger, we recognize that COVID19 has created unique demands for products typically utilized in the healthcare sector. The below are two potential resources for you to consider as you look to procure products in your Back to Business, Back to School or Back to Health programs. These suppliers carry commonly requested Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products, such as masks and gloves, as well as health and safety products such as hand sanitizer and more. Information provided on products and supplies is for reference only. Geisinger does not guarantee availability or quality. The choice of vendor to procure products from is entirely a buyer decision.

www.Medline.com

www.Stockd.com

How can I protect myself, colleagues, students and their families from COVID-19 and help prevent the spread?

Like the flu, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is through common-sense prevention measures:

  • Practice social distancing. Don’t shake hands, avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing and visiting public areas. Alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes with at least 60% alcohol are also good options for hand hygiene.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Keep surfaces clean and disinfected at your home, workplace and school.
  • Wear a mask when you’re in public, which helps protect others.

If you aren’t feeling well, the only time you should leave your home is to seek medical care. The best thing you can do if you’re sick — with a bad cold, the flu or COVID-19 — is staying home and self-isolating.

Flier: Hygiene to stay healthy

Since the opening of many businesses — including schools, colleges and universities — depends on employees needing daycare services, do you have recommendations for daycare facilities, such as screenings, masks, class sizes and child drop-off procedures?

Visit these helpful links regarding childcare and taking care of children:

What is the best way to interact with students and their families when reopening?

We recommend following CDC guidelines on masking and social distancing. This includes:

  • Requiring everyone to mask before entering a building or campus.
  • Limiting the number of people in a building or campus.
  • Ask COVID-19 symptom screen questions of anyone who enters a building or campus.
  • Having markers of 6 feet on the floors to maintain social distancing.
  • Having directional traffic flows.

If you have infrared (no-touch) thermometers available, you can add temperature checks to your screening process.

Avoid group gatherings and keep lines moving at any screening stations to avoid a back-up while people wait to get screened. If you have many employees and students, they can pre-screen themselves at home and confirm with a representative at your school that they’re symptom-free before coming to class.

Flier: Virtual meeting tips and tricks

What are the guidelines for cleaning the school?

What if I don’t have access to cleaning products?

When EPA-approved disinfectants aren’t available, you can use alternative disinfectants. For example, you can mix ⅓ cup of bleach (or 70% alcohol) to 1 gallon of water.

Don’t mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that are very dangerous

Athletes are not required to wear masks in high intensity workouts. Sports such as football involve close conditions with athletes from different geographic regions. How is it possible to reconcile this circumstance with a responsible approach to ensure the safety of our athletes and the students they interact with during the school day?

It is true that athletes have increased risk of transmission for COVID-19. Pre-screening, masking and hygiene habits are key. While engaging in high intensity workouts, athletes are able to remove his or her mask; however, during any breaks the mask should be worn. The mask becomes as essential as the mouthguard. When on the sideline between plays, during time outs, pre-game, and immediately after competition ends, masks should be worn. Equally important are pre-screening measures. Teams should ensure only those that have passed pre-screening are able to board buses or compete. Athletes should follow self-screening measures at home before and after games, including a temperature check and other symptom questions. Should symptoms begin on a weekend, contact your PCP or the COVID-19 hotline. Shared water bottles should not be utilized. Each athlete should bring his or her own water bottle. A large cooler of water to refill is possible, but only one designated person should have the responsibility to refill. When refilling, they should wear gloves or utilize hand sanitizer between filling Locker rooms should not be utilized for team showering. Showers should occur immediately when returning home.
Does HVAC spread the virus?

Adequate ventilation is very important, particularly in a room with many people such as a classroom. Recommendations for schools encourage strategies to increase airflow when weather allows, including opening windows and using air conditioning. There should be increased circulation with the outside air and air recirculation within the room should be minimized. For that reason, ductless or split system AC units should be turned off as they provide no outdoor air exchange. HVAC systems can be modified by an HVAC engineer per operating parameters. Further recommendations specific for schools regarding ventilation can be found at https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/reopening-of-schools-and-universities
When giving nebulizer treatments in the school setting, should those students be separated from other students in the health office during treatment.

Generally, if patients with asthma get breathing treatments when they are acutely ill, they should be separated from other children. Viruses including COVID-19 can trigger asthma symptoms such as cough or wheezing. It is not clear at the present time if nebulizer treatments (where liquid medicine is given through a machine that releases medicine in vapor form that the child then breaths) causes aerosols (small mist droplets that linger in the air for a long time) which could spread COVID-19. Currently most pediatric experts are recommending meter dosed inhalers with spacer be used instead for asthma exacerbation.
Can a face shield be worn instead of a mask?

Based on current data, face shields are not an equivalent replacement for mask. Masks should be worn as much as is feasible. Face shields do provide some protection if masks cannot be worn.
If students take masks on and off, does that create more risk than leaving them on all the time? Is risk increased due to potential increase of touching their face?

The proper way to wear a mask is to not touch the front of the mask, and if you do, wash or sanitize your hands immediately after. The best way to protect oneself is to wear the mask as much as possible when out in public combined with frequent hand hygiene.
What medical risks or concerns exist from prolonged mask wearing?

In children, there are very few medical reasons not to wear a mask. Young children may have a risk of choking if they are under age 2 and/or developmentally unable to remove their mask. Otherwise, children should be able to wear masks, especially asthmatics, particularly if asthma is under good control. Unless they have an acute problem breathing, all children above the age of two should wear masks. Allergic reactions to mask fabric could be a concern. If this occurs, different mask materials should be tried. Additionally, there is no evidence that masks decrease oxygen intake or increase exposure to carbon dioxide (CO2).
If students are separated by 6 feet, can they remove masks?

The best way to protect from spread is to wear a mask AND distance 6 feet. This would be the recommended approach to have the lowest risk for transmission and should be done whenever possible. However, we recognize that is not always feasible. According to the Department of Health masking mandate:

Under what circumstances are students permitted to remove their face coverings (e.g. masks and face shields)?

Schools may allow students to remove their face coverings when students are:

  1. Eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart;
  2. Seated at desks or assigned work spaces at least 6 feet apart; or
  3. Engaged in any activity at least 6 feet apart (e.g. face covering breaks, recess, etc.).
Does pre-K guidance differ from daycare?

The same risk mitigation principles apply for both age groups. Screenings, temperature checks, masking and distancing, separating ill children, and sending them home to get tested should be followed.
What are your recommendations for when an employee at school claims they can't wear a mask due a to medical condition, such as asthma?

Generally, employers should be providing training to employees when face coverings are distributed or required. Also, the training process should include identification of any medical issues that could interfere with wearing face coverings, such as claustrophobia, asthma, COPD or other conditions. Employers are advised to engage in the interactive process with such employees as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state and local provisions.
If we provide students with welcome kits, what health related items could be included?

Many schools provide “welcome back” kits to returning students.  Adding things like:

  • Cloth mask (could have school logo)
  • Personal digital thermometer
  • Clip on hand sanitizer (to clip to bags/backpacks)
  • Symptom reminder magnet, card or cling that they can put on their wall
  • Stylist pen to help avoid contact
  • Additional educational information as needed about new policies or things that may have changed since the last time they were on campus
  • Important campus phone numbers or websites/apps for student health, etc.

may be useful in helping combat COVID-19

Children develop symptoms for any number of reasons other than COVID-19. How can schools identify something other than COVID-19?

It is very hard to tell COVID-19 apart from other respiratory and stomach infections , including influenza or strep. Parents should keep their ill children away from school, get them tested and follow protocol for return until they have an alternative diagnosis. It is important to prevent spread of strep and influenza in our schools as well. 

  • If diagnosed with COVID-19: return 10 days from symptom onset AND 3 days without fever without antipyretics AND improvement of respiratory symptoms.
  • Symptomatic patient not tested: assume they have COVID-19 and same as above.
  • Symptomatic patient who tests negative: return when they have no fevers for 24 hours (if they have fever) AND improvement in respiratory symptoms.
  • COVID-19 exposed patient with no symptoms: return after 14 days from last exposure if patient continues to have no symptoms. If symptoms develop, patient needs to be tested and follow above protocol for those diagnosed with COVID-19.
If parents refuse to take symptomatic students for testing should these students be kept out of school for 10 days (or longer if still symptomatic)?

The conservative approach would be to assume the child has COVID-19 and keep them from school for 10 days from the start of symptoms (with no fever for 3 days without antipyretics) and improving cough and other symptoms if there is no alternative diagnosis. This approach should be strongly considered particularly if there is some increase in community spread of COVID-19 and especially if the child has been in close contact with somebody with COVID. It can sometimes take several weeks for a cough to fully resolve. These children do not need to be out of school waiting for that resolution. The virus is long gone and these children would not be considered infectious.
Where can I find the current models of how many cases are in my area and when the peak will be?

Here are some helpful resources for looking at models for COVID-19 in your area:

When teaching young children, a teacher's mouth needs to be visible for effective instruction. Is it okay to use a face shield instead of a mask during instruction?

Face masks are our primary recommendation for a face covering to protection, particularly if the wearer is coughing or sneezing. However, face shields can also provide protection from outgoing droplets and can be considered an equivalent, if they completely cover the nose and mouth. They do have limitations for incoming particles, so face masks are preferred, but face shields can also serve as protection and can be an acceptable alternative for anyone unable to tolerate a mask, or in circumstances where the speaker's lip movements must be visible.
Is there any assistance available to pay for COVID-19 testing?

Many insurances, including Geisinger Health Plan, are covering the cost of diagnostic testing for COVID-19.