Schatz Calls for Adequate Ventilation in Schools to Avoid Spread of COVID-19
With some schools set to reopen for in-person instruction for the second quarter, US Sen. Brian Schatz is urging school leaders to ensure there are adequate ventilation and filtration classrooms.
All students started the 2020-21 school year in distance learning due to concerns over the spreading of COVID-19. On Sept. 17, Hawai‘i Department of Education and the State Department of Health announced new metrics that would allow students to return to a blended-learning model starting Oct. 12.
“It is clear that airborne transmission through both droplets and aerosols, including transmission between individuals farther than six feet apart, plays a major role in the spread of COVID-19,” Schatz wrote. “This has important implications for the mitigation strategies that we put into place, as these particles can travel more than six feet in the air and stay in the air for long periods of time,” the senator stated.”
It is important, the senator continued, that schools take every precaution to prevent the spread of the virus within schools to keep students, families, teachers, and other school workers safe.
“Proper ventilation is critical in preventing the spread of the virus. The CDC’s guidance for schools calls for many steps that schools should take to improve ventilation,” Schatz wrote. “It requires strong leadership to ensure that all schools are prepared to put these mitigation strategies into place.”
The new metrics are based on community transmission levels with different thresholds established for elementary and secondary students. This metric is the number of positive COVID-19 cases per 10,000 over a 14-day period by island.
Schools may choose from among three different learning models: learning from home in which students and teachers engage in virtual classes only, traditional in-person learning in the classroom or a hybrid blended learning model that combines both home learning and in-person classroom learning.
“Our guidance is based on mitigation strategies promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approaches to school reopening that have been implemented in other states,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, deputy state epidemiologist, who spearheaded the development of the document. “We recognize one size does not fit all, so instead of blanket statewide guidance, we developed a regional approach because disease transmission rates can differ on each island. This empowers school leaders to be responsive in the context of what is happening in their community.”