The window is open — public schools are letting out and vaccination rates continue to ramp up nationwide. Summer vacation for students has only just begun, but it’ll be over before we know it.
We’re not out of the woods for COVID-19. New variants are rising around the world, and the US still has some distance to go before we achieve the elusive “herd immunity.”
Now is the time. Schools should quickly implement the necessary changes to protect against outbreaks when school starts up again.
The CDC’s most recent guidelines for school safety from this virus emphasize, among other things, ventilation and air filtration, including in-room portable HEPA air purifiers. (CDC: Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention)
Furthermore, common issues like poor ventilation and particle pollution can worsen COVID-19 symptoms or contribute to other lifelong health problems like asthma.
Why do we need to keep fighting against the spread of COVID-19?
Despite many states declaring full reopenings, we still have much work to do to keep everyone safe. Vaccinations in the U.S. are rising, but at uneven rates. New variants of the virus from around the globe threaten us here in the U.S.
Since schools are the last facilities to shut down and the first to reopen, they are at risk of becoming hotspots for the spread through children, staff, or other employees if proper measures are not taken. As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 rises, restrictions across the nation are loosening — the timing is not ideal. (National Geographic: The Delta variant is serious. Here’s why it’s on the rise.)
Read more on the importance of HEPA filtration in schools here: The Opinion Piece on Indoor Air Quality Every School Administrator Needs to Read
Complete herd immunity from COVID-19 is unlikely in America…
How big a threat is COVID-19 to students?
COVID-19 is a bigger threat to children than many realize. Children can still suffer symptoms, and children can spread the disease to more at-risk populations at school, at home, and in their communities. (CDC: COVID-19 in Children and Teens)
Teenagers (junior high school and high school age) are likelier than small children to develop symptoms. Babies under one year old are also at higher risk of serious illness.
While children get sick with COVID-19 at a lower rate compared to adults, they can still get sick and spread the virus. Most children have no symptoms at all, or mild symptoms, but they are still able to spread it to other children and adults.
Some children still have terrible symptoms; some children in the U.S. have even died from it. No reasonable parent should assume it’s an acceptable risk.
In the UK, schools have been traced as sources of spread of the Delta variant of the virus. In the US, this variant accounts for over six percent of cases nationwide, and has been identified in six different states. The threat remains serious.
Why do schools need to focus on indoor air quality?
We know that COVID-19 is airborne. It spreads primarily via biological aerosols that we create by talking, yelling, singing, or simply breathing.
HVAC upgrades are not enough; adding a MERV-13 filter is only one piece of the puzzle. Portable HEPA air cleaners are another crucial piece, and public schools habitually ignore them simply because of cost.
If ever there was a time for schools to break this cycle, it’s now.
Summer break has started, there are federal funds available for schools to do exactly this, and the benefits of improving indoor air quality go far beyond this pandemic.
Read more on the benefits of improving schools’ indoor air quality here: The Lancet Commission Report
Better test scores, improvements in crucial academic subjects, reduced asthma, and more…
According to the CDC:
“Evidence suggests that many K-12 schools that have strictly implemented prevention strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open.”
Those prevention strategies must include in-room portable HEPA filters.
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CDC: Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html
CDC: COVID-19 in Children and Teens – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children/symptoms.html
National Geographic: The Delta variant is serious. Here’s why it’s on the rise. – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/the-delta-variant-is-serious-heres-why-its-on-the-rise