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Keeping students safer

With the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19, which appears to affect children more than previous variants, strategies must be developed to keep school children safer. In Osterholm Update Episode 66 (https://tinyurl.com/jmmjev7n), Dr. Osterholm, epidemiologist and head of CIDRAP at the University of Minnesota, discusses keeping children safer–not safe–in schools. He is personally concerned because he has relatives working in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and school-aged grandchildren too young to vaccinate.

My synopsis of his recommendations follows:

1. Vaccinate everyone who can be vaccinated. A Facebook post of Dr. Michelle Au compared vaccinated people to large, damp logs, unvaccinated people to dry kindling, and COVID-19 to fire. Large, damp logs can burn and spread fire but are difficult to ignite if there is no kindling.

2. Improve the ventilation of all rooms (5 or 6 air changes per hour)!

3. To improve air quality and reduce air exchange rate, install portable air cleaners with HEPA filters or improvise with a CORSI Box made from a box fan and five MERV13 furnace filters.

4. Do frequent rapid testing and quarantining.

5. Provide effective masking. People at the Aug. 30 School Board meeting who said that cloth strips don’t work are correct. Recent discoveries have shown that the COVID virus does not spread in droplets but as aerosols which are like cigarette smoke. If you can smell the smoke through the mask, you can be infected by the virus. So masks of N95 or KN95 quality or that meet ASTM barrier mask standard are required. Most medical professionals wearing N95s all day. I found N95s held on by bands that go around the head for about a dollar. I just pull the mask down around my neck when not needed.

Teachers pointed out that many parents can not afford clean, effective masks. For the tests, air cleaners, and masks the school system will have to make bulk purchases, use the federal COVID funds, or solicit funds and assistance from the state, National Guard, business community, and the PTAs. Students need access to the safety equipment to assist them in avoiding COVID-19.

Judith Peascoe

Vienna

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