I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Health Advice Should We Go Back to School Buildings

One of my (myriad) older cousins (David) has been a surgeon for longer than I've been teaching (>25 yrs). I wanted to share his advice far and wide. Planning helps me get through mental stress, and I hope this helps those heading back. Please let me know in the comments what else you will be doing to keep yourself safe.

Should we head back to school buildings:

At the end of the day the only way to minimize your individual risk of contracting the virus (and therefore spreading it to anyone you live with— doesn’t mean you will, but seems more likely than not) is to minimize your contact with people.  ALL people. The more you limit your exposure, the better your odds.  Still not 100%, but better.  

IF you go to a high risk environment (not necessarily as high risk as the nurses caring for Covid patients)— and I would consider any group of people in a closed space for ANY period of time high risk— then what can you do to minimize risk of bringing it home?  Well, no one knows for sure, but the medical people will: 

— Wear clothes that are easy to wash. Take them off in an antechamber (ie garage) put it immediately into the wash (high temp).  If the washer were in the garage it’d be ideal, but otherwise the space between the garage and the washer/whatever the dirty clothes touch needs be considered contaminated
— Leave your shoes either outside or in the antechamber (now a contaminated space)
— Typically they then go directly to the shower (either naked or in underwear depending on level of paranoia, I suppose), wash (including hair) in warm/hot water
— Get dressed in clean clothes
— The next day repeat— ad nauseam
— Remember, the idea is to keep your house a clean zone.  NOTHING comes in without being cleaned (ethanol/bleach/heat/UVC). I try to consider the car a clean zone as well (Purell on entering), but recognize it’s really not.

The concept is this will prevent any virus on your clothing/self from coming into the house.

It doesn’t do ANYTHING about your contracting the virus yourself.

To minimize THAT you need to: 
— Prevent any of your mucus membranes (lips/mouth/eyes) for coming in contact with the virus
— DON’T touch your face!!!!
— You can touch whatever you want with your hands (but minimizing contact with people- who may not/certainly won’t be as diligent as you--shaking hands etc). You have to consider your hands contaminated the whole time and don’t touch anything/decontaminate (soap and hot water/Purell/ethanol/bleach) frequently
— Remember, cloth/disposable/surgical masks probably DON’T protect you (there may some minimal protection, but only against droplet/direct gross contamination)— they are there to protect everyone else from you
— If you wanted to TRULY protect against what is almost certainly an airborne threat you’d need to wear an N95 mask and goggles.  I DON’T think you should attempt to reach this level (I don’t think it’s possible, actually, for a bunch of reasons including you’ll never find them, won’t wear them properly secondary to discomfort/poor practice, etc)
— Unfortunately, closing your eyes fast isn’t even in the realm of being helpful.  Your face is not contaminated (severely) as are your clothes and the air you breathe in. I told him my uncle I probably don't need goggles as I can turn away from sneezes... đŸ˜¬


David said more, but it was about parenting and how the kids may not be being so safe right about now... we've seen this in person and online, so I don't need to add that here.

For me, this means I'll do the above. Plus... 
     -- I will wear my glasses instead of my contacts.
     -- I will most likely go with the scrubs option (at least on top - Hubby wants me to get the bottoms, too, as he thinks my jeans won't last through so many washings). 
     -- I will not be bringing any physical work home. Forget the backpack. 
     -- I might purchase recyclable water bottles for a bit, unless I can have Hubby put out hot soapy water in the sink before I get home to toss my much beloved water bottle in it.
     -- I will bring cold lunches in brown paper bags and have garbage instead of my reusable lunch bag.
     -- When I take my mask off to eat, I will only hold it by the ear loops and then place it face down on a clean surface like a Tupperware container specifically for the mask.
     -- I hear it's great to wipe my face when I do take the mask off - with simple facial wipes.
     -- I will keep my car key in my pants pocket.
     -- I will wash my hands/arms liberally before heading out to the car, and I won't touch anything on the way to the car.
     -- After my shower, I will make sure I spend some time outside. Being out in nature really helped me mentally and physically in the spring, and it's been helpful all summer long.
     -- I will search high and low for - and use - these disinfectants - in the car, wiping down my phone, I.D., and... ?
     -- I will continue to eat healthy, drink my probiotic, and get outside to exercise daily.

What are your tips? What have you heard that can help us stay safe?

P.S. How can I pass up these pants that are called "Joy" ??  I never knew there were such cute scrubs! I'll fork out the moolah. It's not like I'm buying anything this summer anyway.


  1. From Jamie Murray Armin - my daughter/elem T mentioned her asthma specialist said 2 ply cloth masks w/filter inside & wire inside on top of nose to secure mask was great choice(after n95 or surgical).Also distancing & hand washing. MH/HS will need hand washing stations. Love scrubs idea!

    From JoAnn Jacobs - Since I have to carry my school laptop to and from my doctor suggested a plastic backpack since it could easily be wiped down. Also wearing a triple layer mask and protective gloves every day. My list continues to grow.

  2. From Dan Welty - And keep those windows open! I intend my T space to be in the back of my room in front of windows blowing air into the room.

  3. As of now I won't even be in my room that has no ventilation and no windows. I'll be traveling room to room to the kids, who will be in the same exact classroom all day long except for I guess gym and lunch.

    1. I feel for you, Paul. All traveling teachers, PE, music, art, language teachers... I feel for you. I feel for the students.

  4. Cathy Anderson
    Argh, I hadn't even thought about all of the "don't bring it into the house" concerns...

  5. The advices above are great for sure. But, some of them (e.g take the clothes out, out them in a washing machine, wear new clothes before are not applicable for those living in apartments (high rise).

    1. No doubt. Suburbia all the way (detached garages probably don't work, either).
      Maybe set up a station right inside your door that is only for changing and then have a garbage can (with a plastic bag liner and a lid) right there for the clothes for the week until you're ready to wash them.