Disinfecting Child Safety Restraint Systems And Other Steps Schools Can Take To Limit Virus Spread

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised school districts to clean car seats and child safety restraint systems with mild detergent and water instead of disinfecting them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The medical association warns that disinfecting could "compromise the crashworthiness of the equipment." They explained that chemicals can degrade the strength of car seats. In a statement, the AAP said, in most cases, the safety equipment "can only be cleaned with mild detergent and water." This will help ensure that the restraint system will function as intended in case of a vehicular accident.

AAP added that a previously issued recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use an EPA-registered disinfectant is, therefore, not appropriate.

The AAP is also instructing school districts to make sure to "document that child safety restraint systems (CSRS) are paired with the same child for each trip."

The medical association stated that caregivers should also follow established precautions including using cloth face coverings; physical distancing; and washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

Caregivers of children with special needs are advised to take the child's specific needs into account when developing a transportation plan - for example, for those who use a wheelchair or tracheostomy tubes. School districts have also been instructed to "establish organized seating plans for students who use car seats or child safety restraint systems in school buses."

AAP instructs school districts to have equipment used by a child who tests positive for the coronavirus removed from service for a few days. Denise Donaldson, a certified child passenger safety technician and instructor, recommends that the child safety restraints systems should be removed from service for a week.

AAP said that, "a possible infected car seat or CSRS should be stored out of reach or in a securely tied plastic bag." Transporters should use a substitute car safety seat or harness device in its place in the meantime.

Seatbelts cannot be removed from vehicles so, the seating position used by the infected child should be taken out of service for a few days, after which the seat and seatbelt should be cleaned according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In the case of potential asymptomatic riders, AAP advises disinfecting, whenever possible, when several students ride the same school bus at different times of the day.

AAP also advises students who use the school transport to use hand sanitizer and wear eye protection. Ryan Gray "AAP Advises Against Disinfecting Child Safety Restraint Systems" stnonline.com (Aug. 24, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

According to the CDC, since March 2020, 277,285 COVID-19 cases in children have been reported. In addition, COVID-19 incidence among adolescents ages 12 to 17 was approximately twice that in children ages five to eleven years of age.

In addition, underlying conditions were more common among school-aged children with severe outcomes related to COVID-19.

Approximately 56 million children (ages five to 17) have gone back to school in the United Sates in the fall of 2020. With so many going back to school, it is imperative that school districts do everything they can to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Here are some tips from the CDC that can help prevent or reduce the spread of COVID among students and school employees on campus:

  • Actively encourage students and employees who are sick or who have recently had close contact (less than six feet for at least 15 minutes) with a person with COVID-19 to stay at home.
  • Develop policies encouraging sick employees and students to stay at home without fear of reprisal.
  • Make sure employees, students, and the students' families are aware of these policies.
  • Consider offering virtual learning and telework options, if feasible.
  • Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Encourage students and employees to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available.
  • Teach and enforce the use of masks. However, the CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a mask may not be feasible. In these instances, school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible.
  • Provide adequate supplies including soap and water, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for employees and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks, and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans.
  • Post signs in highly visible locations that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs.
  • Make regular announcements on reducing the spread of COVID-19 on PA systems.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Clean and disinfect school buses or other transport vehicles.
  • Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
  • Keep each student's belongings separated from others' things.
  • Avoid sharing electronic devices, books, and toys.
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