The doctor is in: Eating in shared spaces/classrooms

How worried should I be about my child eating lunch in a classroom with 24 other children, masks off? 

Eating in a shared space with masks off does present a moderate risk for transmission if there is an infected person in the room and students are less than 6 feet apart. The benefit to having students eat in their classrooms is the idea of cohorting – meant to minimize exposure to additional students outside of the classroom and decrease the risk of spread when compared to students mixing from multiple classrooms in a cafeteria-like setting without masks.  

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The goal should be to keep students at least 6 feet apart during mealtimes in a common area, including the classroom. Masks should be worn as much as possible, except when actively eating or drinking.  

Additional strategies to reduce the spread during mealtimes are ensuring handwashing before and after meals for 20 seconds, cleaning of surfaces before and after meals, no shared food or utensils, and making sure students know to cover their coughs and sneezes. 

Talk to your children and emphasize the importance of these safety measures to keep them and their classmates and their teachers safe during this time. 

— Camilla Giallourakis, MSN, APRN, CNP – AC/PC, Nurse Practitioner, School-Based Health, Akron Children’s Hospital