The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging that car seats and child safety restraint systems be cleaned with mild detergent and water but not disinfected during COVID-19, as to not compromise the crashworthiness of the equipment.
The nation’s leading pediatric medical association also says that school districts should document that child safety restraint systems (CSRS) are paired with the same child for each trip.
The recommendation issued last week explains that chemicals can degrade the necessary strength of car seats. “In most cases, all parts of car safety seats and vehicle seat belts can only be cleaned with mild detergent and water,” AAP states. “[T]his helps ensure the restraint system will perform as intended in the event of a crash.”
AAP also advises that a previously issued recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use an EPA-registered disinfectant is not appropriate. Rather, AAP says caregivers including school districts should use “alternate means to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during transportation.”
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Caregivers should also follow established precautions, including physical/social distancing, using cloth face coverings, and practicing hand hygiene,” AAP continues. “Caregivers of children with special needs (e.g., compromised immune systems, tracheostomy tubes, or use of a wheelchair) must take the child’s specific needs into account when developing a transportation plan. School districts [should] establish organized seating plans for students who use car seats or child safety restraint systems in school buses.”
AAP says that equipment used by a child who tests positive for the SARs-Cov-2 virus should be removed from service for a few days. During a School Transportation News webinar last month, certified child passenger safety technician and instructor Denise Donaldson told attendees that car seats and child safety restraints systems should be removed from service for a week.
“I’ve confirmed with an AAP rep, however, that our webinar recommendation of a week is, if anything, very conservative,” added Donaldson, who is also the editor and publisher of Safe Ride News. “Under no circumstances would it be too short a period of time.”
AAP’s guidance adds that a possible infected car seat or CSRS should be stored out of reach or in a securely tied plastic bag. Transporters may also use a substitute car safety seat or harness device in the meantime.
Because seatbelts cannot be removed from vehicles, AAP says the seating position used by the infected child should be taken out of service, “ideally for a few days, after which the seat and seatbelt should be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.”
To address potential asymptomatic riders, AAP also advises disinfecting, when possible, when multiple tiers of students ride the same school bus at different times of the day.
The guidance notes that public transit systems present students with the greatest risk of contracting an infectious disease, with those risks increasing in communities that do not require the use of face masks or PPE on board.
“The frequent onboarding and de-boarding of riders limits the ability of bus personnel to adequately disinfect surfaces,” AAP observes. “Also, it is difficult to enforce social distancing on busy bus routes. Given these limitations, public transportation should be used sparingly and only if necessary, to reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to an individual at higher risk.”
AAP also advises students who ride transit use hand sanitizer and wear eye protection.
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Students with special health care needs should have the same access to proper resources for safe transportation as other children, AAP advises. “However, they may present challenges because of physical limitations, airway issues, or behavioral problems. Each child’s specific needs must be taken into consideration while developing a plan for transportation.”