“Your average school building that you’re going to walk into today is not a commercial facility where you go to do your grocery shopping, or retail shopping, or even a lot of the office spaces that folks are used to going into every day. And even if you want to, it’s really difficult and expensive to retrofit these buildings with the controls needed,” he said.
Barkkume discovered guidance for clean air even from the CDC has fallen short.
“From the beginning and up until today, the CDC does not recognize full aerosol transmission of the virus and this trickles down to the state level and it informs the requirements the Department of Education places on school districts and it changes the way they do their planning,” he said.
He is now working with teachers unions to raise a red flag about air quality in schools. He believes aerosol droplets can escape even when a person’s wearing a mask. And Barkkume says the state has no measurements to prove a school’s met the required clean air standards.
There’s been a big focus on filters lately, with some districts investing in MERV filters. But Barkkume says that’s less important than ventilation. And it all goes out the window when schools are overcrowded, says Heather Sorge, campaign organizer for Healthy Schools Now.
“These are issues that really needed to be addressed long before COVID-19, but now they’ve been highlighted and exacerbated by the virus. And things like poor ventilation can actually make the virus spread faster,” said Sorge.
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