School Buildings and Occupants Can Speed or Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Jul. 9, 2020 / PRZen / SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — As pressure mounts for schools to reopen this fall, awareness is growing of the need for specific plans on how schools will not just open, but stay open, by protecting the health of children and their families, teachers, administrators and school staff.  By their nature, schools are an environment conducive to the spread of illnesses, including COVID-19. They are densely occupied for long periods and have a well-documented history of deferred maintenance which has resulted in well-known problems with ventilation and indoor air and plumbing, and challenges in cleaning.

The virus is not going away. Moreover, the poorest communities hardest hit by COVID-19 also send their children to the poorest schools in the worst condition, making this a supremely challenging health and education equity and rights problem with no quick solution.

Over 60 national public health and healthy school leaders joined the Coalition for Healthier Schools today to release a National Call to Action for state health agencies to provide an authoritative School Infection Prevention and Control Plan to all schools to adopt. The current piecemeal approach to no-plan-just-open, will clearly deepen the disparities and sow more confusion. The Plan covers state roles and local roles, notes federal and state regulations in place, then outlines considerations in reopening buildings that have been closed for weeks if not months, maintaining and updating ventilation and cleaning protocols, and then discusses options for scheduling occupancy, including screening for illnesses, masks and PPE, and services for children with health and learning issues.

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