Masks, Hand Hygiene, and Physical Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wash Up Mask Up Back Up

Updated Feb. 26, 2021

 

Informational Videos

Face Coverings and Masks: Best Practices

Hand Hygiene: Best Practices

Physical Distancing: Best Practices 


Face Coverings, Masks

What is a face covering?

Who is required to wear a face covering at MCPS facilities?

Why do we need to wear face coverings at MCPS facilities?

When and where do we need to wear face coverings at MCPS facilities?

What kinds of face coverings are permitted by MCPS?

What is the best way to wear a face covering?

How do you clean face coverings?

More information


Hand Hygiene 

Why do we need to keep our hands clean?

How can we keep our hands clean?

What is the proper way to wash hands with soap and water?

What is the proper way to use hand sanitizer?

When should you clean your hands?

Are there any other safety and health issues related to hand hygiene?

More information 


Physical Distancing 

What is physical, or social, distancing?

Why do we need to practice physical distancing?

How can we practice physical distancing at MCPS facilities?

Are there times or places when we cannot practice physical distancing?

Are there any other safety and health issues related to physical distancing?

More information

 

 

Informational Videos

Face coverings and masks

 

 

Hand hygiene

 

 

Physical distancing

 



Face Coverings, Masks

What is a face covering?

 

Face coverings are masks or material worn over the nose and mouth to block and slow down respiratory droplets released when exhaling, coughing, sneezing, talking, shouting, and singing.  When an infected person wears a face covering, the face covering acts as a barrier (or source control) to that person's respiratory droplets.  This protects other people from the infected person's respiratory droplets.  Face coverings are not considered respiratory protection.  They do not prevent the wearer from inhaling particles from the environment as effectively as a properly-fitted respirator, and they are not tested to any accepted standard for respiratory protection.  Remember the saying, "My mask protects you, your mask protects me."

 

Who is required to wear a face covering at MCPS facilities?

 

Anyone who enters an MCPS facility is required to wear a face covering.  This includes all MCPS students, employees, contractors, volunteers, and visitors over the age of two (2).  Students and employees who are unable to wear a face covering because of an impairment, disability, or medical condition may request an exemption, permitting them to enter MCPS facilities without a face covering.  Employees may request an ADA accommodation using MCPS Form 270-6.  Students and families may work with their IEP teams to determine if they should not wear a face covering at school.

 

Why do we need to wear face coverings at MCPS facilities?

 

Face coverings are required as part of MCPS' ongoing efforts to protect students, employees, visitors, and the community from COVID-19.  Face coverings are also required for compliance with county requirements (Montgomery County Executive Order 122-20 AM).  

Please remember that face coverings are not a substitute for 6-foot physical distancing.  Even while wearing a face covering, people must still stay 6 feet apart to effectively protect against COVID-19.  

 

When and where do we need to wear face coverings at MCPS facilities?

 

Face coverings must be worn at all times at MCPS facilities, with certain exceptions.  Exceptions (when face coverings do not need to be worn, but physical distancing is still required):

  • When eating or drinking at a personal workstation, designated eating area, empty indoor area, or outdoors.
  • When employees are alone in an enclosed room or office with the door closed.  A face covering should be readily available to put on if another person enters the room.
  • When alone in a vehicle that only you and members of your household use.  Face coverings are required in shared county vehicles, such as school buses and pool vehicles.
  • When on an authorized outdoor mask break.
  • When performing an activity where a face covering can create a safety hazard, including:
    • Certain sports activities for students under the age of eighteen (18) as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (wrestling, cheerleading involving tumbling/stunting/flying, swimming and diving while in water);
    • Swimming and other water sports where the face covering can become wet and difficult to breathe through;
    • Nap or rest periods when children might fall asleep;
    • Receiving medical or emergency care, at the provider's discretion;
    • Operating machinery or equipment that can entangle or entrap face coverings;
    • Strenuous work activities;
    • Certain activities associated with heat stress, especially strenuous activities in hot temperatures; and
    • Work activities for which a respirator is required.
     

Additional exceptions may be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Operations and the Department of Systemwide Safety and Emergency Management.

 

What kinds of face coverings are permitted by MCPS?

 

MCPS will provide face coverings, meeting CDC and county recommendations, for all MCPS students and employees.   Students and staff may bring in their own face coverings, if they meet MCPS requirements.

Face coverings must:

  • Be constructed of tightly-woven fabric or material;
  • Have at least two layers of material;
  • Permit normal breathing;
  • Fit snug, but not uncomfortably tight;
  • Cover the face from the bridge of the nose to under the chin, fully covering the nostrils and mouth; and
  • Be properly maintained: kept clean, dry, and in good condition (no excessive wear, tears, holes, damage).  Note: MCPS Fine Arts has approved certain masks with coverable openings that may be used while playing wind instruments.

Face coverings with air filters may be used; however, use only filters designed for face coverings.  Do not make your own face covering filters from filters designed for machines and equipment (vacuum bags, HVAC/furnace filters, automotive air filters, industrial equipment filters, etc.) because these filters can contain fiberglass fibers or they can be treated with tackifier chemicals (sticky chemical products designed to help filters trap air particles), antimicrobial chemicals, and fire retardant chemicals.  Inhaling fiberglass fibers or tackifier, antimicrobial, and fire retardant vapors can be harmful.

 

Acceptable types of masks and face coverings:

  • Disposable surgical-type masks, KN95s, KF94s, and other similar masks.
  • Cloth masks with multiple layers (at least 2) of breathable, tightly-woven fabric.  Filter pockets are acceptable.
  • Bandanas (worn bandit-style) that are multi-layer (they can be folded over to create multiple layers) and fully cover the nostrils, mouth, chin, and throat.
  • Gaiters that are multi-layer (they can be folded over to create multiple layers) and fully cover the nostrils, mouth, chin, and throat.
  • Clear window masks, where necessary for communication with people who need to see the wearer's mouth, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing, have disabilities, or are learning to read.

 

Unacceptable types of masks and face coverings:

  • Face coverings that do not have at least 2 layers of material.
  • Face coverings made of a loosely-woven, knit, or mesh material.
  • Face coverings with any openings in the facepiece material (exhalation valve, drinking straw hole) because these can permit unfiltered exhaled air to pass through.  Note: MCPS Fine Arts has approved certain masks with coverable openings that may be used while playing wind instruments.
  • Face coverings that are difficult to breathe through because of the type of material or design.
  • Bandanas that are single layer or do not fully cover the nostrils, mouth, chin and throat when worn bandit-style.
  • Gaiters that are single layer or do not fully cover the nostrils, mouth, chin, and throat.
  • Face coverings that are inconsistent with the employee code of conduct or student dress code, such as face coverings with offensive images or language printed on them.

Respirators, like N95s, and surgical masks intended for medical use should not be used for general use – these should be reserved for people who need them, like first responders and medical professionals.

 

Double masking, wearing a mask on top of another mask, is permitted if both masks meet MCPS requirements.  Double masking should NOT be performed if:

  • It interferes with normal breathing.
  • It causes excessive discomfort or facial/ear irritation.
  • It interferes with proper fitment of the bottom mask.
  • It negatively affects proper mask cleaning and storage practices.  If storing two reusable cloth masks during the day (before putting them back on together later), ensure the outer surface of each mask does not contact the inner surface of the other mask. 

 

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What is the best way to wear a face covering?

 

Before putting a face covering on, identify the outside and inside, top and bottom. Remember to only handle face coverings with clean hands before putting them on:

  • Surgical-type masks: the inside surface is usually white and the earloops are usually attached to the inside surface.  Look and feel for a moldable nose wire along the top edge of the mask.
  • Cloth masks: Look at the shape of the mask and how the earloops or head ties are attached to find the inner and outer surfaces.  Some have an inner filter pocket.  Some also have a moldable nose wire along the top edge of the mask.

 

Putting the face covering on:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer.
  • Inspect the face covering for damage (loose, torn, worn earloops or straps; tears or holes; excessive wear) and ensure it is visibly clean and dry.
  • When putting on a mask, handle only the earloops, head straps, or head ties as you position it on your face.
  • Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Fit it snugly against the sides of your face, but not uncomfortably or painfully tight.
  • If the face covering has adjustable earloops or head straps, tighten them for a snug, but not uncomfortable, fit.  If the face covering has head ties, tie them tight enough for a snug, but not uncomfortable, fit.
  • If the face covering has two head straps or head ties, ensure the top strap or tie goes over the crown of the back of your head and the lower strap or tie goes under your ears.  This will ensure a more secure fit.
  • If there is a nose wire, mold it to the bridge of your nose and tops of your cheeks.

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Wearing the face covering:

  • Ensure the face covering stays in place, snug but not excessively tight.   If it keeps sliding down off your nose, it is probably too loose - you will need to tighten it (if it is adjustable) or replace it with a different face covering that fits better.
  • Ensure you can breathe normally while wearing the face covering.  If you have difficulty breathing after you put the face covering on, you should replace it with a different face covering that allows you to breathe normally.
  • Try not to touch your face or the face covering after putting it on because you might transfer virus particles to your hands and then to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

 

Taking the face covering off:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer.
  • Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the earloops or headstraps away from your head.
  • While handling only the earloops, headstraps, or ties, pull the face covering away from your face.
  • Pull gaiters off carefully, trying not to touch your face and head with the outer surface.
  • Fold outside corners of the face covering together or fold it inside out.
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, face, and mouth while removing the face covering.
  • Place reusable cloth face coverings directly into a washing machine or sink for cleaning.  If you are away from home and need to put the face covering back on later, place it in a pocket, purse, or paper bag.   If the cloth face covering is visibly dirty or wet, place it inside a sealed bag until you are ready to clean it.
  • Discard disposable face coverings in the trash.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer after handling the face covering.
 

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Test the fit of the face covering:

When you have a new face covering, check that it fits you properly before wearing it in public.  Everyone's face is shaped differently, so not every face covering will fit you properly.  Some will be too tight and others will be too loose.  You can check the fit of a face covering by putting it on and seeing if it moves out of place, slides down off your nose, or creates discomfort while:

  • Talking for a few minutes.
  • Moving your head side to side and up and down several times.
  • Smiling and frowning.
  • Taking one or two slow, deep breaths.

If the face covering does not stay snug and in place, try adjusting the fit (if it is adjustable) or replace it with a different face covering that fits better.

 

Practice:

If you are not used to wearing a face covering all day, it can be uncomfortable when you first start wearing one all day at work or school.  You can practice wearing a face covering at home before you need to start wearing it all day in public.  You can build up your comfort level by wearing a face covering for longer and longer periods of time over several days or a few weeks.

 

Common problems:

  • Eyewear fogging while wearing a face covering with eyeglasses, safety glasses, or sunglasses. This can interfere with your ability to see your surroundings and create a safety hazard, especially if you need to wear a face covering and eyewear while driving a vehicle.  To prevent fogging, you should ensure a snug fit along the bridge of the nose and tops of the cheeks.  If the top of the face covering fits too loosely, more exhaled air will blow onto the eyewear and cause more fogging.  To prevent eyewear fogging, you can:
    • Wear a face covering with a moldable nose wire that you can shape to your nose and cheeks.  A tighter fit along the top of the face covering will reduce the amount of exhaled air that reaches your eyewear and causes fogging.
    • Use hypoallergenic tape to fasten the top of the mask to the bridge of your nose and cheeks.  Use only a tape designed for this purpose and if it causes irritation, discontinue use.
    • Apply anti-fog spray on your eyewear.  Use only products designed for this purpose and follow the product directions for applying it.
  • Skin or ear irritation. If you experience irritation to your ears from mask earloops, you can try using a face covering without earloops (masks with head ties or head straps, gaiters, bandanas).  You can also try wearing an 'ear saver headband'.  These are headbands with buttons attached to each side that can be used, instead of the ears, to hold the earloops.  If you experience facial irritation, try a different type of face covering and ensure it does not fit too tightly.  Consult your healthcare provider, as needed, for assistance with any irritation issues.
  • Dirty or damaged face coverings. If possible, have a spare face covering available in case your face covering becomes damaged, dirty, or wet during the day.  Remember to always inspect your face covering for damage or defects before putting it on, after taking it off, and after washing it (if it is a reusable cloth face covering).  Discard disposable face coverings at the end of each day or when they get dirty, wet, or damaged.

 

How do you clean face coverings?

 

It is important to keep your face covering clean.  If you don't, you can cause skin irritation or even get sick from bacteria or mold that can grow on a dirty face covering.  To keep your reusable cloth face coverings clean, you SHOULD:

  • Clean cloth face coverings whenever they get dirty or wet.  At a minimum, you should clean them at the end of each day you wear them.
  • Clean cloth face coverings in the washing machine: wash with regular laundry; use regular laundry detergent and settings appropriate to the fabric; dry in a warm or hot dryer as appropriate to the fabric or air dry.
  • Clean cloth face coverings by hand: wash thoroughly with tap water and laundry detergent or soap; rinse thoroughly with water to remove the detergent or soap; dry in a warm or hot dryer as appropriate to the fabric or air dry.

Never apply chemical disinfectants (like bleach, alcohol, disinfectant wipes) to a face covering, because chemical residue can cause skin and respiratory irritation when the face covering is put back on.

If your face covering uses a filter that is inserted into a filter pocket, replace the filters periodically and when they get wet, dirty, or produce a noticeable odor.  

Disposable masks should be discarded when dirty or wet.  Even if not visibly dirty, you should discard disposable masks at the end of each day when worn.  They may be placed in regular trash.

 

More information

 

More information about face coverings is available from these sources:

 

  

Hand Hygiene

Why do we need to keep our hands clean?

 

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.  Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.  Regularly washing hands with soap and water not only keeps you healthy, but prevents the spread of illness to others. 

Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you: 

  • Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands.
  • Touch a contaminated surface or objects, like door handles and push plates, light switches, stair railings, furniture, elevator buttons, and shared appliances. 
  • Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people’s hands or shared objects and surfaces.
 

How can we keep our hands clean?

 

The best way to keep our hands clean is to regularly wash them with soap and water.  Handwashing with soap and clean water physically removes germs and other contaminants.  Effective handwashing can be done using any hand soap and clean water.  Antibacterial soap is not needed and hot water is not needed (warm and cold water work too).

When you do not have easy access to soap and clean water, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.  Hand sanitizer kills germs, but does not remove contaminants, like chemicals, dirt, and grease.  As a result, hand sanitizer should not be used instead of handwashing with soap and water whenever your hands need to have potentially harmful contaminants removed.  Wash your hands with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer:

  • When hands are visibly dirty, greasy, or sticky.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • Before eating.
  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • After touching garbage.
  • After touching pets, animals, animal feed, or pet food.
  • After handling hazardous chemicals, even if you wear gloves. 

 

What is the proper way to wash hands with soap and water?

 

When washing your hands, you can use any hand soap with clean water.  Antibacterial soap is not needed, and any temperature water is okay.  To wash your hands:

  • Step 1: Wet hands thoroughly with clean, running water. 
  • Step 2: Dispense soap into your wet hands.  If you are using a bar of soap, do not share that soap with others.
  • Step 3: Lather up the soap by vigorously rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds, paying particular attention to the backs of the hands, fingertips, under the nails, cuticles, spaces between the fingers, and under jewelry.  Make sure you wash above the wrist level and also include your thumbs.  It is important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your hands.  Try humming the 'Happy Birthday' song twice while you wash your hands to make sure it takes at least 20 seconds. 
  • Step 4: Rinse your hands thoroughly with clean, running water. 
  • Step 5: Dry your hands using a disposable paper towel.  You may use the paper towel to turn off the faucet, but this is not necessary.  Avoid the use of shared towels.    

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What is the proper way to use hand sanitizer?

 

In order to effectively kill germs, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.  MCPS will have ample supplies available throughout offices and schools.

  • Step 1: Apply the hand sanitizer to your hands.  Use enough hand sanitizer to fully cover your hands.
  • Step 2: Rub your hands together, making sure you get the hand sanitizer all over the back of your hands, palms, nails, spaces between your fingers, and your thumbs.  Continue rubbing until your hands are dry.  This should take about 20 seconds. 
  • Step 3: Make sure to let the hand sanitizer dry on your hands.  Do not wipe or rinse off the hand sanitizer. 

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When should you clean your hands?

 

You should clean your hands whenever necessary to protect yourself from hazardous substances, including: 

  • Before and after touching your face covering.
  • Before and after touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • When entering or leaving a public place, like your school or office.
  • After touching an item or surface that is frequently touched by others, such as door handles, light switches, hand rails, furniture, gas pumps, and shopping carts.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. 
  • Before and after eating.* 
  • Before, during, and after preparing food.* 
  • After using the bathroom.* 
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.*  
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound for yourself or someone else.*  
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.*  
  • After touching an animal, animal feed and pet food, or animal waste.* 
  • After touching garbage.*   
  • When your hands are visibly dirty, greasy, or sticky.* 
  • After handling hazardous chemicals, even if you wear gloves.* 

*Wash hands with soap and water, do not use hand sanitizer.

 

Are there any other safety and health issues related to hand hygiene?

 

Fire safety

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is flammable, so it is important to use and store it safely.  Always keep hand sanitizer away from heat, sparks, and flames.  Allow your hands to completely dry after applying hand sanitizer if you are going to work with heat, flames, static electricity, or sparks.  And be careful not to spill hand sanitizer on your clothes or any equipment.

MCPS schools and facilities must ensure hand sanitizer is not misused and must also comply with fire safety requirements.  These requirements include:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers may not obstruct walkways or doorways.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers may not be installed in hallways that are less than 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide.
  • Maximum dispenser capacities are 0.32 gallons (1.2 liters) for hallways and 0.53 gallons (2.0 liters) for rooms that are not open to hallways.
  • Dispensers must be at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) apart.
  • Dispensers may not be placed directly above carpeted floors, except where there are fire sprinklers in the area.
  • Dispensers may not be installed within 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) of ignition sources (like stoves and Bunsen burners) or combustible materials (such as paper and cardboard).
  • Quantities of 5 gallons (18.9 liters) or more may not be stored in a single room or closet in a school or office building.
  • Hand sanitizers containing more than 95% alcohol are not permitted. 

 

Chemical safety

Keep hand sanitizer in the manufacturers’ containers.  Do not transfer it to unlabeled bottles or other containers because people might not know what it is and some containers, which are not designed to hold hand sanitizer, can leak.  For your safety and to ensure effectiveness, do not try to make your own hand sanitizer and never mix different hand sanitizers together.  This can result in a mixture that does not kill germs effectively or is hazardous.  

 

Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer

  • Ensure students know how to properly use hand sanitizer.
  • Make sure students do not swallow hand sanitizer or spill it on the floor, which can cause people to slip and fall.  
  • Place hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer dispensers for students in locations that can be monitored by school staff.  
  • Ensure hand sanitizer dispensers are positioned well below face height for young children, so they do not splash their eyes and face. 

 

Methanol contamination

Some hand sanitizers have been recalled for being contaminated with methanol, also known as wood alcohol, a toxic chemical that can cause harm when absorbed through the skin or swallowed.  In some cases, swallowing methanol-contaminated hand sanitizer can cause blindness or death.  

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled a list of hand sanitizers that have been recalled for methanol contamination.  You can check if your hand sanitizer is on FDA’s recall list: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-consumers-should-not-use.  If you do have a hand sanitizer product that is on the FDA recall list, you should stop using it immediately.  Discard it or return it to the seller.  All hand sanitizers supplied by MCPS have been checked against this list, and recalled products are not purchased.  

 

Skin dryness and irritation

To prevent hand dryness or skin cracking, apply moisturizer or hand lotion throughout the day.  You can also try washing your hands with cool or warm water instead of hot.  Consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns.

 

More information

 

More information about hand hygiene is available from these sources:

 

  

Physical Distancing

What is physical, or social, distancing?

 

The CDC advises that minimizing close face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  For the purposes of contact tracing, close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or longer during a 24-hour period.  Examples of close contact: 

  • You and a co-worker, who unknowingly has COVID-19, stand next to each other, closer than 6 feet, for 20 minutes during a shift.
  • You have a conversation with a co-worker, who unknowingly has COVID-19, and you stand closer than 6 feet apart for 10 minutes one afternoon.  You and the same co-worker sit next to each other, closer than 6 feet, for 5 minutes the next morning.  Because you and the co-worker have spent a total of 15 minutes closer than 6 feet during a 24-hour period, you have been in close contact and are at risk for becoming infected.  

According to the CDC, being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period means you were in close contact regardless of whether or not you and the other person wore a face covering.  No face covering can ensure 100% protection from respiratory droplets that might contain the COVID-19 virus.  

Physical distancing, also called “social distancing,” is the practice of staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ lengths) away from other people.  By consistently practicing physical distancing in public, you will reduce the possibility that you will become sick from contagious diseases, like the flu, colds, and COVID-19.

To practice physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) apart from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.  If members of your household are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19, you should try to stay 6 feet apart from them also, if possible.

To protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus, you should practice physical distancing along with:

  • wearing masks in public;
  • frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • not touching your face with unclean hands;
  • avoiding crowds, especially in indoor areas:
  • keeping your workspace and home clean; and
  • working with your supervisor on ways to work from home, if possible.

Remember, wearing a face covering or mask is not a replacement for physical distancing.  Even if everyone wears a face covering, you still need to stay 6 feet apart to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

 

Why do we need to practice physical distancing?

 

By consistently practicing physical distancing in public, you will reduce the possibility that you will become sick or spread contagious diseases, like the flu, colds, and COVID-19.

We all release small respiratory droplets whenever we talk, sing, yell, cough, or sneeze. According to the CDC, COVID-19 spreads mainly when an infected person releases virus-containing respiratory droplets which land in, or are inhaled into, the noses and mouths of people nearby.  By staying at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks, we can dramatically reduce everyone’s exposure to these respiratory droplets.  This is especially important because the virus can be spread by infected people who may not know they are infected because they do not have any serious symptoms.

If you are sick or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should stay at home and contact your supervisor.  Close contact is defined as being within 6-feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period regardless if face coverings were worn or not. 

Please note, even if you receive the COVID vaccine, the CDC currently advises that you should continue the practice of mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing.

 

How can we practice physical distancing at MCPS facilities?

 

As MCPS reopens schools and buildings, classrooms and other work spaces are being transformed to foster physical distancing.  With preparation and creative thinking, most work tasks can be performed while practicing physical distancing.  Depending on the task, this might require modifications to the workplace or changes in work practices.  Signs and floor markings can also be used to continuously remind everyone to practice physical distancing when at MCPS facilities.   

It is a challenge to maintain physical distancing, but we must gently remind ourselves, our co-workers, and our students to keep at least 6 feet apart.  If others are too close to you, take a few steps back and gently remind them that we must adhere to physical distancing, even when masks are worn.  Remember, wearing a face covering or mask is not a replacement for physical distancing. 

When evaluating a task for which you believe physical distancing is not possible, or might be challenging, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it absolutely necessary for this task to be completed now or can it be delayed until the spread of COVID-19 in the community has become very low?
  • Is it possible to make work practice changes so this task does not need to be completed?
  • Is it possible to perform this task in a different way, so it does not require people to be within 6 feet of each other?
  • Is it possible for this task to be performed by contractors, rather than by MCPS employees?

 

Examples of how tasks can be performed by MCPS employees with physical distancing:

  • Rearrange workstations, furniture for adequate spacing (more than 6 feet apart and not facing each other, where feasible).
  • Move some workstations out of rooms if they are too small to allow them to be placed at least 6 feet apart. 
  • Stagger work schedules to reduce how many employees are in the same room together. 
  • Incorporate telework and virtual meetings.
  • When manually transferring items to customers, place the items on a table and stand back while the customer retrieves them or place the items in the customer's trunk while the customer waits in the vehicle. 
  • To lift and carry heavy objects that ordinarily require two or more people: 
    • Break down heavy objects into smaller pieces that can be managed safely by one person, such as disassembling large furniture into smaller components, cutting large logs into smaller pieces, breaking up trash into multiple small loads rather than one large load requiring multiple people to carry.
    • Use material handling equipment (like furniture dollies, pallet jacks, or forklifts) to permit a single person to lift and carry heavy objects (Note: workers may only use equipment if they are properly trained and the equipment is appropriate to the task).
    • Hire a contractor to perform the task.
     

Are there times or places when we cannot practice physical distancing?

 

Being closer than 6 feet from others for very brief periods of time, like walking past people in a hallway or restroom, is not believed to increase the risk of getting infected.  There might be times, however, when you need to be close to others for an extended period of time, such as when:

  • Assisting special student populations with toileting, lifting or physical therapy.
  • Intervening in a physical altercation.
  • Providing first aid.
  • Fingerprinting new employees.
  • Performing some manual tasks that cannot be safely conducted by a single person.

To protect employees engaged in activities like these, MCPS has developed procedures involving specialized training, personal protective equipment, modified work practices, and hiring trained and equipped contractors.

 

Are there any other safety and health issues related to physical distancing?

 

When rearranging and relocating furniture, workstations, materials, and equipment to support physical distancing, it is important not to create new hazards, by:

  • Blocking/obstructing emergency exits, halls, and doorways (which can cause people to trip and fall and can also prevent people from evacuating quickly during an emergency).
  • Stacking furniture or other items unsafely (which can cause objects to fall onto people).  
  • Moving combustible materials like paper or boxes into hallways, stairways, or mechanical rooms (creating fire hazards).
  • Moving equipment and running electrical cords through walkways, doorways, ceilings, or windows (which creates tripping, electrical shock, and fire hazards).

If your facility designates one-way halls or stairways, all students, staff, and visitors must be aware that people should travel in any direction necessary during an emergency evacuation to ensure everyone can exit the building in a rapid and orderly manner.  This should be stressed during emergency drills.   


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