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SANTA CLARA COUNTY (CBS SF) — Health officials in Santa Clara County on Tuesday released detailed COVID-19 guidance for school administrators to help them prepare to welcome students back to school campuses for the 2020-2021 school year.

The plan outlines the protocols and policies in place to protect students and staff from coronavirus.

Developed in partnership between Santa Clara County public health officials and the Office of Education, the guidance provides detailed direction for schools on issues including safe practices for in-class instruction, school arrival and departure, bus transportation, use of face coverings, hand washing, campus cleaning, food service for students, extracurricular activities and other subjects.

The document explains specific actions schools need to take to prevent COVID-19 transmission and how to respond to possible cases in the school setting.

“We need everyone in the community to strictly follow social distancing now so that children and teachers can safely return to school in the fall,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in a statement.  “Schools and other institutions in our community can operate safely if they carefully follow all recommended public health practices, and they must move forward with their preparations now to ensure they have all the measures in place.”

Health officials said whether schools will be able to move forward with reopening for in-person instruction versus continued remote learning for the fall semester will depend on the containment of COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

“From the first shelter-in-place order which resulted in school closures that lasted through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, SCCOE, districts, schools and staff worked earnestly together to support students and families. Informed by safety guidance from the Public Health Department, meaningful educational experiences and essential services were provided while weathering unforeseen and unprecedented challenges presented by this pandemic,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. “We continue to learn a lot from this experience. This fall, while there is no doubt learning environments at schools will look different, our determination to provide students with quality education remains steadfast. Adhering to the guidance provided by the Public Health Department, we will work with districts and schools to implement reopening and recovery plans that continue to reflect our commitment to prioritize safety for students.”

The full guidance is available on the Santa Clara County Public Health website.

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Is it safe for students to return to school in the fall? SoCal doctor weighs in

Many parents are wondering if it's safe for kids to go back to school in the Fall. What do we need to know before that decision is made?

And why is the government encouraging health care workers to reuse their face masks?

ABC7 spoke with Dr. Anthony Cardillo, CEO of Mend Urgent Care and emergency room physician, to get his perspective on these concerns.

We've been reporting on this major debate over whether schools should reopen in the fall. What are the factors that should be considered?

"First and foremost, the health and well-being of the students and teachers is the first thing that has to be considered. We have a lot of teachers that are over age 50, so there has to be a plan in place to keep them all safe. The next factor is looking at the student's emotional well-being if school is not open. It's a major, major toll on both the academics and their emotions, the emotional well-being, if they are not able to go to school. Obviously, the last factor is gonna be the economics of it," said Cardillo. "Schools probably have to approach the reopening the way we approach the essential workers - let's say here at the hospital."

Cardillo says we must be careful and mindful of following all the rules to avoid infections. Schools should not allow lunch breaks or physical education breaks to help prevent transmission. Students and their families should follow safety rules at school and at home.

How do you do this? Cardillo suggests having proper covering, face masks, maybe even shields. He added that there has to be physical barriers between the teachers and the students. Also, only small groups of students should gather, no large group settings.

Vice President Pence said the government will issue guidance encouraging health care workers to reuse their personal protective equipment, using best practices to reuse face masks and other forms of PPE. What's your take on that? How are supplies at your facilities?

"It's a necessity because we know that the face masks and the gowns are really running short supply, and we have to make some radical changes in the future. Probably having most of the stuff produced here in America," said Cardillo. "We have to start transitioning to everything being reusable and clean."

Cardillo says all large hospitals have an ample supply, but warns if a surge were to occur the supply could run low, so everyone must be mindful.

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"The CDC really is hesitant on weighing in to give a definitive answer," said Cardillo. "If you get COVID this season, you will be covered this season and you will not get it again."

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