Here are the CDC’s guidelines to open and operate as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Brianna Crandall — June 3, 2020 — Across the US, states and localities are experiencing different phases of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many have chosen to begin moving gradually and strategically toward resuming civic life. To help states, tribes, localities and territories as well as businesses and community organizations operate as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released two new resources to aide in reopening.

Reopening guidance

The first, CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again, summarizes CDC’s initiatives, activities, and tools in support of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19. The document includes information on general and healthcare surveillance as well as previously posted guidance on infection control, contact tracing, and testing.

Additionally, the document includes a standardized way to look at the reopening gating criteria in the Opening Up America Again guidance and tools to assist establishments after they open; this is a supplement to the decision trees CDC released May 14.

The document includes considerations for localities and organizations on whom to test for COVID-19 and why, and explains priorities and strategies for contact tracing. If provides links to already published CDC guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19, PPE reuse, protecting healthcare workers, and more, and details procedures for daycare centers and schools.

It also offers guidance for employers on accommodating workers who are at high risk due to age or underlying medical conditions; promoting healthy hygiene practices; intensifying cleaning, disinfection and ventilation; promoting social distancing; encouraging continued remote working; limiting non-essential travel; and monitoring the health of all employees daily, as well as planning for when an employee becomes sick.

The specific facilities management (FM)-related advice for intensifying cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation (Steps 1–3) is:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects between use.
  • Avoid use or sharing of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized, or disinfected.
  • Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
  • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible such as by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to individuals and employees using the workspace.
  • Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (for example, drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.

Among the specific suggestions for social distancing are to consider installing physical barriers; reconfigure workspace layouts to keep individuals six feet apart; close or stagger use of communal spaces;  encourage telework; consider rotating or staggering shifts; cancel group events; restrict nonessential visitors; and limit sharing of foods, tools, equipment or supplies.

Health safeguards for specific types of open facilities

The second resource is a set of health considerations to be used by summer camps, schools, youth sports organizations, institutes of higher education, and restaurants and bars that are open.

Considerations documents are concrete, actionable resources that focus on four categories of safeguards:

  • Promoting behaviors to reduce spread;
  • Maintaining healthy environments;
  • Maintaining healthy operations; and
  • Preparing for when someone gets sick.

CDC notes that this guidance is supplemental to local regulations; decisions and strategies about how to operate are implemented at the state, tribal, local, and territorial levels because every locale is different, and individual jurisdictions have the authority and local awareness needed to protect their communities. CDC says it is continuing to work with state, tribal, local, and territorial leaders to provide technical assistance, and resources that can help support decisions about how Americans begin to re-engage in civic life while adhering to mitigation strategies such as social distancing, hand-washing and wearing face coverings.

FMLink has written a very comprehensive guide to reopening buildings safely. This e-book focuses on strategies that facilities managers can follow as they reopen their facilities, geared toward detailed aspects of their facilities.