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COVID-19 Guidance for Schools and Childcare 3.11.20.docx
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Image containing logo for Colorado Department of Public Health Environment, Header - Coronavirus Disease 2019 COVID-19, Subheader - Planning for Schools and Child Care

Novel Coronavirus – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Planning for Schools and Child Care

What is Novel Coronavirus?

The disease called COVID-19 is caused by a novel (new) coronavirus this means the virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Signs and Symptoms

Incubation period

Ranges from 2-14 days

Contagious Period and Spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

There is not enough information about the transmission of the virus to completely understand when a patient can spread the virus to others.


There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

Control Measures of Spread

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Teach children and staff to:

Teachers, Caregivers, and Families

School Staff and Local Public Health Agency


EXCLUDE children/students/staff with fever or respiratory symptoms from child care/school/work until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without use of fever-reducing medicine), runny nose or productive cough and other symptoms are improving.

Ill children/students/staff should be separated from others until they can be picked up/go home.


School, child care, and event closure is not indicated while there is no evidence of community transmission. Some children and family members may be at higher risk for severe illness because of older age, underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. Allow parents along with the child’s heathcare provider to make the best decision regarding the child’s attendance. 

1. Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departments and other relevant partners where possible. Focus on the components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.   (Specific pages include pp 7-8, 18-20)

2. Monitor and plan for absenteeism

3. Continue to educate students, staff and families on the importance of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Communicate community norms/expectations that everyone will follow hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

4. Work with local education representatives and the local health officials to determine what actions should be taken to mitigate transmission.  Actions could include:

Emergency feeding options may be available:

5. Protecting vulnerable populations

School and Child Care Closure

Rationale for School Closure - There are three primary rationale for closing schools and child care:

(1) Limiting spread of the virus in the community,

(2) Protecting vulnerable children and family members, and

(3) Reacting to staff shortages or children kept at home because of infections or parents’ fears of infection.1 

Addressing Parent Fear

It is important to keep students and families informed of actions that the school and child care is taking, including the most up to date information regarding COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and your local public health department.

In rapidly changing health events and outbreaks such as COVID-19, there can be large amounts of incorrect or partially correct information that can add to stress and confusion as a parent/caregiver, student, or school staff. Providing current, accurate, and frequent updates can help reduce stress and fear.

Get the most up-to-date and accurate information at:

Supporting Students, Families, and School and Child Care Staff

In addition to providing information regarding school actions and the latest information regarding COVID-19, students, family, and staff can benefit from information regarding emotional support. Here are some resources that could be helpful.

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019

WHO Infographic Helping Children Cope

National Association of School Psychologists Helping Kids Cope

Colorado Crisis Services: Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or Text to Talk 38255

Guidelines for emergency school or child care closure

The state may modify or update closure criteria based on new information 

It will be important to work closely with your Local Public Health Department as you begin considering closing school or child care. Public Health is not currently recommending that schools or child care proactively close unless they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff or student. The following guidance should be considered a requirement for all schools and child care in Colorado, and schools and child care in partnership with their local public health agencies can choose to close at an earlier time in order to prevent further COVID-19 transmission.

State ordered closure criteria 

Cleaning guidance

Increase deep cleaning to at least 2 times per week and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like doorknobs, tables, drinking fountains and handrails. For instructions regarding disinfecting see here.  For an additional list of recommended products visit:

District guidance

If an immediate family member, caregiver, or guardian of a student tests positive for COVID-19, the site leader and superintendent should determine if that individual was recently on campus. The student should be tested, and decisions regarding school closure should be based on information gathered. Schools may choose to close for 24 hours based on the immediate family member, caregiver, or guardian’s positive test while waiting for the student’s test results. If the student tests positive, follow the state ordered closure criteria above.

How long to close a school or child care

Decisions to reopen a school should be done in consultation with your local Public Health Department

Consideration/challenges for when schools and child care are closed

*Also refers to preschools and child care centers


1 Klaiman et al. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:73