While it appears most California students will start the school year from home, many parents and teachers are anxious about keeping kids safe from COVID-19 once classroom learning resumes.
Dr. Warner Green, a virologist with the Gladstone Institutes and professor of medicine at UCSF, says kids should have a mask, and perhaps even disinfectant supplies along with their pencils and paper.
"If possible, that might be a good thing to have in the backpack," Dr. Green said. "An appropriate Lysol or something to clean the desk surface, that would be fine with me."
Three Habits to Learn Now
Dr. Green assigned parents some homework: drill your kids, especially younger ones, in three habits that will reinforce good hygiene.
First, break out a measuring tape. Show them how far apart six feet of physical distance actually is, and remind them to always remain at least six feet away from others. That includes their teachers and friends.
Second, start a stopwatch at the sink. Time their hand washing, and make sure it's at least 20 seconds. An easy way to track the time is to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Third, teach proper mask use. It should always cover both the mouth and nose. Then, ideally, clean the mask frequently.
What About After School?
When the last bell rings and kids head home for the day, we wondered if parents should take any special precautions. Should you immediately wash their clothes, or make them shower?
Dr. Green says that's probably not necessary.
"I think the issue of coronavirus on your clothes is a probably very, very, very, low threat," he said. "I think the first thing kids should do when they come home is wash their hands and take off your mask safely."
"Safely" means keeping potentially dirty hands away from the inside of the mask. It's essential to keep it clean.
Parents may want to keep a backup mask in each child's backpack, then remind them to switch to the fresh one after lunch.