School-Based SLP Services in the Time of COVID-19
Part 1: REOPENING SCHOOLS
How to Prepare for Onsite Service Delivery
B. Cleaning and Disinfecting
Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection
is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning. Everyone has a role in making sure our
schools are as safe as possible.
The first article in Part 1: Reopening Schools discussed the use of masks or barriers as protection from infection while providing speech-language services. Another important factor in preparing and providing onsite therapy is establishing a plan or process for cleaning and disinfecting in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a 3-step process and provides a decision tool for creating a cleaning and disinfecting plan.
Develop Your Plan: Determine a) what will need to be cleaned, b) how it will be disinfected, and c) what resources and/or equipment will be needed.
Implement Your Plan: Clean surfaces with soap and water prior to disinfection. Use an EPA-approved cleaning or disinfectant product. Always follow product use, safety, and application instructions. Store products in a safe location out of reach of students.
Maintain and Revise Your Plan: Continue routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. Maintain safe practices, such as frequent handwashing, using face coverings, and staying home if sick. Maintain social distancing and reduce sharing of common spaces and objects.
Remember these basic precautions:
Know how the virus spreads. Avoiding exposure to the virus is the best way to prevent illness. It is thought to spread via respiratory droplets which can be inhaled through the nose and mouth between people in close contact, even by those not showing symptoms. As of this writing there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
Wash your hands often. First of all, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in public, after blowing your nose or sneezing, after caring for someone who is sick, and after handling your mask. Frequently touched surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. Use hand sanitizer (alcohol 60%+) when soap and water are not readily available.
Avoid close contact and wear gloves as appropriate. Maintain at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ lengths) of distance between yourself and anyone who is sick, as well as anyone who doesn’t live in your household. This is especially important for those who are at higher risk for contracting the virus and those who care for and/or live with them. Wear gloves appropriate for the cleaning products you plan to use.
Cover your mouth and nose when around others. This is meant to protect others in case you are infected; you could spread the virus even if you don’t feel sick. Always wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, which is especially important when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Wash fabric masks daily or use disposable masks.
Cover coughs and sneezes, especially. Since respiratory droplets can be spread even further than six feet during a cough or sneeze, always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the inside of your arm. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately.
Monitor your health every day. A range of symptoms from mild to severe can appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Be alert for the following symptoms in yourself and/or in others: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea. Check your temperature if symptoms develop.
This and more information is available in the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Factsheet.
SLPs must have a plan and process in place for cleaning and disinfecting therapy spaces and materials when working onsite, while still providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere for students during this unprecedented time of crisis and change.
Check back soon for the next installment in Part 1: Reopening Schools, “How to Prepare for Onsite Service Delivery – C. Materials and Workspace.”
In the meantime, please share your thoughts
and ideas in the comments below.