Coronavirus Resources Family and Friends Public Health

There’s Been a COVID-19 Outbreak at My Child’s School: Now What?

Mom and son with virtual doctor
Choose the health content that's right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox

While kids can get COVID-19, it’s not as common as adults getting COVID-19, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nevertheless, it can happen. And if your child is back in school, chances are you’ve considered the possibility that they could be exposed to coronavirus by other students, teachers and/or staff.

Of course, you want your child to be able to continue their education and try to get back to some bit of their former “normal” routine, but with that comes new concerns — like them becoming ill or unknowingly spreading the virus elsewhere. It’s important to stay calm and not let this possibility overcome you and your family mentally. We’re all doing the best we can right now, so even if an outbreak occurs at your child’s school, try not to panic.

An infographic about what to do if there's been a COVID-19 outbreak at school.

Stay Calm and Prepare

Many school districts and universities have a plan as to how to handle a situation where a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. By now, your child’s school has likely communicated this action plan to you and other families, looking something like this:

When a student or staff member at school has tested positive:

  • A close-contacts list is created to track down those who were near the infected person
  • Parents, guardians and/or caregivers are notified
  • Exposed areas of the school/classroom are closed off for cleaning and disinfecting
  • All close contacts are advised to stay home and quarantine for 14 days, in addition to speaking with their doctor to determine if a COVID-19 test is needed
  • Members of infected student(s)’ or staff member(s)’ household are also advised to stay home and quarantine for 14 days

The CDC recommends infected student(s) end home isolation after meeting all of the following three criteria:

  • At least 10 days since symptoms appeared
  • At least 24 hours with no fever-reducing medication
  • Symptoms have improved

With a plan in place, trust that your child’s school or university will do their best to handle a COVID-19 outbreak appropriately and minimize any additional exposure.

If An Outbreak Occurs

So, if the day comes when you get a phone call from school saying someone in the building with your student has tested positive, remember that your child will now more than likely need to quarantine for 14 days.

Below are a few tips for handling a quarantine in your household, whether your child is asymptomatic or has also tested positive and isn’t feeling well. Since someone who isn’t experiencing symptoms can still spread coronavirus to others, including you or other household members, it’s important to limit their contact with others regardless.

Use Separate Household Items

People in quarantine because of possible exposure or a confirmed case should never share dishes, eating utensils, drinking glasses, cups, towels and bedding or any other items. Any non-disposable dishes and utensils should be handled with disposable gloves and washed with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. If gloves aren’t available, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling items, for 20 seconds each time.

While they’re enjoying their meals in their separate room, the rest of the family can set up a video chat so you can still all eat together. When the dishes or other items are ready to be cleaned, it’s best to handle them with gloves on and wash them thoroughly. Again, if gloves aren’t available, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after handling items.

Wear disposable gloves when handling and disposing of trash, and clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer immediately afterward. It’s also a good idea to use a dedicated lined trash can, if possible.

How to Disinfect the Quarantine Room and Bathroom

Any disposable gloves, face masks or other contaminated items should be placed in a lined container before disposing of them with the regular household trash. After handling any of these items, clean your hands immediately.

Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, like countertops, doorknobs, tabletops, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, tablets, keyboards and bedside tables. If any surfaces have blood, stool or bodily fluids on them, clean those as well.

Use a household cleaning spray or wipe and follow the instructions on the label for safe and effective use of the product, including any precautions to take when applying it, like ensuring good ventilation or wearing eye protection or gloves.

If you must clean and disinfect your child’s bedroom or bathroom, try to do so on an as-needed basis. Wear a mask, if available, and wait as long as possible after they have used the bathroom.

Monitor Their Symptoms

Closely monitor coronavirus symptoms and contact your child’s physician if their symptoms develop or worsen. If your child has a positive laboratory test for coronavirus, make sure to mention this when contacting the health care provider’s office.

Returning to School

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period for children is the same as in adults. The time between exposure to COVID-19 and when symptoms start is usually around 5 to 6 days, and ranges from 1 to 14 days. The school district or university will let you know specific measures and precautions for your child returning, which may include presenting a negative COVID-19 test result.

How to Get Tested

AdventHealth Centra Care locations can provide COVID-19 testing with quick results and appointments are available here.

Our providers are also offering visits in a virtual setting to help answer questions or provide specialty care from your smartphone, tablet or computer. This can be particularly helpful if your child or someone in your household is experiencing symptoms and you need to limit their exposure to others.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

If your child or someone in your household develops any of these emergency warning signs, the CDC says to get medical attention immediately:

  • Bluish lips or face
  • New confusion or inability to rouse
  • Persistent pain or pressure in their chest
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

If the person has a medical emergency and you need to call 911, tell the dispatch personnel that the patient has confirmed or suspected coronavirus.

If they’re experiencing a symptom that’s not on this list but is severe or concerning, call their medical provider for help understanding what to do. If the health care provider says to go to a physician’s office or hospital, the person who’s sick should wear a face mask before entering the facility, or any time they may come into contact with others.

Learn More

To be able to keep our community up to date with the latest coronavirus news, we’ve created a Coronavirus Resource Hub that includes answers to frequently asked questions, as well as resources for parents and students.

Recent Blogs

A Small Boy Laughs as He Gets Off a School Bus with an Apple in Hand.
Planning for Your Child’s School Physical: What to Expect
A Family Goes for a Bicycle Ride Through a Park on a Sunny Morning
Six Most Common Summer Injuries and How to Prevent Them
The Importance of Participation and Diverse Representation in Research
A group happy children blowing bubbles during the summer.
How to Balance Your Family’s Active Summer Schedule
6 Health Screenings Every Man Should Have
View More Articles