Suggested Guidelines on COVID-19 Prevention in Primary and Secondary School Libraries

5 May 2020 11:50 AM | 香港學校圖書館主任協會內務秘書 (Administrator)

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Suggested Guidelines on Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) Prevention in Primary and Secondary School Libraries (HKTLA_202005)

Hong Kong Teacher-Librarians’ Association (HKTLA) has been keeping track of the updated on prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in primary and secondary school libraries. Further to our email enquiry to the Education Bureau, “Prevention of Communicable Diseases in Schools” (See Appendix 1) and “Health Advice to School for the Prevention of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Interim)” (See Appendix 2), general guidelines on coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) prevention on school campuses, were given without specific ones on prevention in the school libraries.

Considering the differences between school libraries and other classrooms & special rooms, including copious amount of collections, enormous book circulation, and massive number of students going in-and-out of school libraries, the following suggestions are provided by HKTLA for coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) prevention in primary and secondary school libraries with reference to the advice from the Department of Health (See Appendix 3) and actual school operations.

1. Basic Operation of School Libraries after School Resumption
1.1   Arrangement of returning books
a.   The Department of Health advises all schools to put all returned books after school resumption into the book drop. After the book drop is positioned outside the school library for about one week, the book cover (front and back) and spine of each book should be disinfected with 1 in 99 parts diluted household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, that is, diluting 1 part of household bleach into 99 parts of water. All books should be disinfected before their loan records are updated and they are shelved.
b.   Alternatively, HKTLA suggests that the loan records can be updated first, then the returned books can be collected with the book drop that is positioned outside the school library. After about one-week time, the book cover (front and back) and spineof each book are to be disinfected with 1 in 99 diluted household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, that is, diluting 1 part of household bleach into 99 parts of water before they are returned to the shelves.

1.2   Arrangement of borrowing books
a.  According to the advice of the Department of Health, suspension of library loan service is not necessary when books are kept clean. Nevertheless, special arrangement of borrowed books is necessary.
b.  To better prevent the spread of the disease, HKTLA suggests that schools may set boundaries within libraries for students’ access or control students’ admission to the libraries.


1.3   Guidelines on Opening School Libraries
a.    HKTLA suggests temporary closure of all school libraries for at least one week after the school resumption for putting aside the returned books and disinfection. Schools must guarantee the frequently touched items, including school library collections, are cleaned and disinfected.. Hence, there may be insufficient manpower to bear the huge workload in school libraries.
b.   As advised by the Department of Health, students from different classes should avoid having lessons together in the meantime. It would be more advisable to suspend rotating visits to school libraries. We believe that allowing students to enter school libraries will increase their risks of contacting coronavirus diseases due to the contacts of various books which are difficult to track. If the virus survives on books, it will pose a greater risk for the library staff and student librarians. As a result, it will take more time and manpower to clean all books in the school libraries.
c.    According to Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the CHP’s Communicable Disease Branch, most of the 33 environmental samples taken inside and outside the Buddhist temple in North Point, which is linked to 19 infection cases of coronavirus diseases (COVID-19), have been tested positive, including one from the cover of the prayer book and the cloth wrapping it. The test results reveal that books are difficult to clean. Some experts suggest putting the books aside until the virus is dead. According to a research conducted by HKU Medicine team, stability of SARS-CoV-2 varies in different environmental conditions, from 3 hours on printing and tissue papers, to more than 7 days on the outer layer of a surgical mask.

2. The Department of Health advises providing 70-80% alcohol-based handrub outside the school libraries for all students, teachers and staff to clean their hands before and after visiting the libraries. All visitors to libraries must wear masks and clean their hands after touching books or public areas.

3. The Department of Health advises cleaning hands after touching books or any public areas. All library staff and student librarians are advised by HKTLA to wear masks and gloves when checking in and out library materials.

4. As advised by the Department of Health, janitors should clean the school libraries with 1 in 99 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite with 99 parts of water). The frequently touched surfaces of furniture, toys, commonly shared items and floor should be cleaned and disinfected for at least twice daily while all metallic surfaces should be disinfected with 70% alcohol.

5. The Department of Health advises daily routine disinfection of carpets. It is advisable to cover carpets with rubber mats for the convenience of cleaning and disinfection.

6. We suggest that book-floating where circulation of books cannot be monitored, should be suspended. All books in book-floating points should be cleaned and disinfected.

7. All collective reading activities, such as reading groups, parent-child trainings and seminars,  should be avoided or suspended according to school context.

To protect our students, parents and staff members, in addition to prevent libraries to become a channel of infection, HKTLA provides the above suggestions in the hope of helping schools and librarians to set appropriate protocols effectively. Together, we fight!


References

1. Centre for Health Protection, the Government of the HKSAR (2020). Health Advice to School for the Prevention of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Interim). Retrieved from https://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/advice_to_school_on_prevention_of_nid_eng.pdf

2.  Covid-19 cases tied to North Point temple rise to nine (2020, February 26). Ejinsight On the Pulse. Retrieved from
https://www.ejinsight.com/eji/article/id/2386421/20200226-covid-19-cases-tied-to-north-point-temple-rise-to-nine.

3. Education Bureau, the Government of the HKSAR (2020). Prevention of Communicable Diseases in Schools. Retrieved from https://www.edb.gov.hk/en/sch-admin/admin/about-sch/diseases-prevention/index.html

4. HKU Medicine (2020). Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/HKUMed/photos/pcb.3111569638893586/3126588764058340/?type=3&theater

5. Pan, Y., Daitao Z., Yang, P., Poon, L. M.  et. al. (2020). Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 20 (4), 411-412.


Appendix A

The reply letter from the Department of Health to teacher-librarian Ms. Cheung Mei Yu’s enquiry in January 2020

Below is the translation of reply letter from the Department of Health to teacher-librarian Ms. Cheung Mei Yu’s enquiry in January 2020 concerning advice on Coronavirus Diseases Prevention Measures in Primary and Secondary School Libraries titled “The advice from the Department of Health concerning how school libraries handle returned books and use special rooms properly after school resumption”.


Dear Ms. Cheung,

Thank you for your enquiry.
   
Under the circumstance associated with “Severe Respiratory Disease associated with a Novel Infectious Agent”, health advice for the Prevention of Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) has been published by Centre for Health Protection to schools. Please click the link below for details.
https://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/advice_to_school_on_prevention_of_nid_eng.pdf
      
Students and teaching staff who have been to the COVID-19 affected areas within 14 days should inform the school. They should not return to school for 14 days after returning to Hong Kong. Schools should measure temperature for all students upon their arrival to schools in order to identify those with a fever. All school staff should measure temperature before returning to school. Any school staff who have a fever or symptoms of respiratory diseases should not return to school.

This advice aims to prevent sick students and school staff from returning to school. Under this prerequisite, the operation of school libraries, arrangement of student entries to special rooms, and disinfection of carpets should be handled as daily routine.

The recent literature revealed that people with no symptoms could infect others. Therefore, we would give the following advice if your school proposes to step up measure on coronavirus disease prevention.

1. All returned books are advised to put into the book drop after school resumption. After the book drop is positioned outside the school library for about one week, the book cover, cover spine and back cover of each book should be sanitized with 1 in 99 diluted household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, that is, diluting 1 part of household bleach into 99 parts of water. All books should be disinfected before their loan records are updated and they are shelved.

2. Library teachers and assistants should clean hands after touching books and public area.

3. Given that the school libraries are kept clean, it makes no difference to coronavirus   diseases prevention regardless of whether the library loan service is suspended.

4. 70-80% alcohol-based handrub should be provided outside the school libraries. All students, teachers and staff should clean hands with alcohol-based handrub and wear masks before and after visiting the libraries.

5. Janitors are advised to clean the school libraries with 1 in 99 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite with 99 parts of water). The frequently touched surfaces of furniture, toys, commonly shared items and floor should be cleaned and disinfected for at least twice daily while all metallic surfaces should be disinfected with 70% alcohol.

Furthermore, there are some suggestions concerning your three enquiries.

1. Students from different classes should avoid having lessons together in the meantime. It would be more advisable to suspend rotating visits to school libraries.

2. Carpets should be disinfected regularly as daily routine. Also, carpets could be covered with rubber mats for the convenience of cleaning and disinfection.

3. Only special arrangement of borrowed books is necessary.


Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any further enquiries!

Yours sincerely,

(Miss Jenny TSANG)
Director of Health

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