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CDC releases new guidelines for reopening schools, restaurants

The CDC's 60-page document provides detailed reopening guidance for schools, child care centers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a 60-page report outlining detailed guidelines for schools, restaurants and mass transit systems looking to reopen, as many states move to ease coronavirus restrictions. 

The report provides a "three-phased approach" that communities are required to meet in order to move from one mitigation phase to another.

The plan is heavily reliant on expanding and focusing testing efforts and using contact tracing to help monitor and control the pandemic especially among asymptomatic carriers of the virus. The report states that testing should primarily focus on "persons with an increased likelihood of infection" and "settings with particularly vulnerable populations." 

The CDC has created a three-step mitigation process for all facilities and businesses looking to reopen. Plans provided for the health agency includes intensifying cleanings, implementing health check screenings, planning for sick employees and customers and promoting social distancing across all three phases.

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Under the guidelines, restaurants and bars should continue only offering drive-thru, delivery or curb-side pick-up through phase one before opening up and prioritizing outdoor seating with social distancing guidelines in subsequent phases. These facilities are also encouraged to avoid using shared objects, like menus, dishes, utensils and payment systems, and opt for single-use items or touch-less digital systems. 

Non-essential trips should also initially be cancelled, before resuming travel in accordance with state and local regulations.

Any employee with a higher risk for severe illness should be encouraged to telework up until the third phase in order to minimize contact with customers and fellow employees.

Credit: AP
A food server wearing a protective face mask waits on customers at the Parkshore Grill restaurant Monday, May 4, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

As mass transit begins to return to normal operation, the health agency recommends transportation systems restrict access to their services to essential workers only before opening up the systems to more individuals. The CDC recommends creating and enforcing social distancing among riders and employees by closing seats. 

As more parents begin to return to work, the CDC also has provided new interim guidance for schools and child care programs. Initially, camps and child care programs should only be for the children of essential workers. It is recommended that there is limited sharing and mixing of groups to keep children from from being exposed to numerous individuals. This includes closing all communal spaces and cancelling large events. 

The interim guidelines for schools also recommends having teachers wear masks, and students when possible. The CDC also suggests closing down cafeterias and having students instead eat in their classrooms.