The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally said what the research has been suggesting for months: Schools don’t need to be disinfecting surfaces daily.
Will they take that to heart?
It’s possible to spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, through contact with surfaces. But the risk in most real-world settings is low. So low that the CDC now recommends only to disinfect surfaces in homes and schools where there has been a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the last 24 hours.
“In most situations,” the CDC noted in an April 5 science brief, “cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk.”
It could free up cash and teachers
That could help schools in a couple of ways. For one, they probably don’t need to invest as much in disinfectants and foggers, not when a simple wipe with soap and water should do the trick. Yes, surfaces will still need to be disinfected when there are sick kids in class. But perhaps at least some of the money spent on expensive cleaners could be put to use elsewhere.
And two, we probably could ease up on using teachers as janitors. Many had struggled with disinfecting surfaces between classes or activities, particularly when the products were supposed to sit on surfaces for longer than their allotted passing periods or breaks. Some complained about the chemical smell they left in classrooms.
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The updated guidance should free up teachers to do other important stuff during their passing periods. And, particularly in elementary schools, where the risk of transmission is typically lower than in higher grades, perhaps it will spur the return of more hands-on stuff that is so critical to learning but that has been largely nixed in the name of hygiene.
Focus our efforts where it helps most
That doesn’t mean we throw sanitation to the wind, but rather focus our efforts on where they could make the most difference: On improving ventilation, remaining vigilant on mask wearing and ensuring kids frequently wash their hands.
Instead of banning that bin of shared math manipulatives, for example, why not have students wash their hands before and after their use? And then, if teachers are still uncomfortable, give them a quick soap-down in a sink at the end of the day?
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That would do as much or more for students than disinfecting each block (or banning their use outright, knowing that no one has the time to disinfect each block).
This pandemic has always been about balancing risk with reward. And, luckily, this is one balance that moved much more in schools’ favor.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: CDC says schools don't have to disinfect daily. That's a godsend