New CDC Guidance on College Reopening: Cover Faces, Desks 6 Feet Apart

May 21, 2020 Updated: May 22, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued by far the most detailed guidelines on how to reopen colleges and universities safely.

The guidance released on Tuesday does not address whether colleges should hold in-person classes for the fall semester. Instead, it recommends a host of strategies that can help limit the spread of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus on college campuses while maintaining healthy operations.

“Face coverings should be worn as feasible and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult,” the CDC guidance reads.

Some other safety practices for colleges to put in place include encouraging faculty, staff, and students to stay home or self-isolate when they are sick or exposed to the virus, promoting good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and ensuring adequate supplies such as soaps and hand sanitizers.

The guidance specifically suggests colleges to change their classroom layouts to support physical distancing. For example, it recommends hosting smaller classes in larger rooms and spacing seating and desks at least six feet apart “when feasible.” It also recommends installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, in places where it is difficult for people to keep physical distance, and using tapes on floors or sidewalks to create signs that remind people to remain at least six feet apart.

When it comes to shared spaces such as lounges, dining halls, and exercise rooms, the CDC suggests to close them or otherwise, stagger use and restrict the number of people allowed in at one time to ensure everyone can stay at least six feet apart, and clean and disinfect between use.

In regard to bathrooms and dorms, the CDC recommends adding physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, between beds and bathroom sinks “especially when they cannot be at least six feet apart.”

Other specific suggestions include limiting sizes of gatherings, encouraging students, faculty, and staff who use mass transit to consider other means of transportation, and restricting “nonessential visitors” and activities involving external individuals and groups, especially those from outside the local geographic area.

The CDC guidance notes that institutions of higher education (IHEs) “vary considerably in geographic location, size, and structure,” and therefore should determine whether and how to implement these considerations based on their unique needs and circumstances, as well as guidance from state and local health officials.

“Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community,” the CDC guidance reads.