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Improving Ventilation Could Help Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Posted at 8:01 AM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 08:01:03-04

LANSING, Mich. — Health experts are continuing to plead with school districts to check ventilation systems before reopening.poor air circulation in aging schools, could put teachers and students at risk for COVID. Chris Conte takes a closer look at solutions schools can take so kids can head "safely back to school."

Emptiness and darkness have consumed this nation's schools for months.

But as fall approaches, it is shedding light on a problem decades in the making.

" I’m concerned, I understand why anxiety is high"

Dr. Joseph Allen oversees the Health Buildings Program at Harvard University.

Months ago he started sounding the alarm about poor ventilation systems plaguing schools nationwide.

"We’ve chronically underinvested in our school buildings"

Nationally, 90 percent of schools are under-ventilated.

Not a great thing before the pandemic but now, poor air circulation could help spread COVID.

Dr. Allen is pleading with schools to address ventilation before reopening.

"What’s happening in classrooms depends on the action we take or don’t take"

To help guide schools, Harvard created a Risk Reductions Strategies Report.

For schools that can't afford to upgrade their ventilation systems, or don't have time, portable air cleaners can help.

Dr. Allen says a portable air cleaner with a HEPPA filter is key.

In a classroom where ventilation is poor, changing the air out five times per hour ... means air in the room can be cleaned every 12 minutes.

Even opening windows helps.

Last week, Harvard even released an air cleaner calculator.

It allows school officials to input the size of classroom, even ceiling height.

Then it recommends the kind of air cleaner that would be safest.

If you have lower ventilation you should increase the amount of filtration, if you have good ventilation you don’t need as much filtration.

Movement of air yes, movement is huge

Deanna Adkinson's engineering firm has been helping school districts asses the quality of their air flow systems.

What they've found is alarming.

Some schools haven't had air filters upgraded in DECADES.

Just from walking around some of the older schools they aren’t even meeting code right now as far as ventilation goes.

And there's plenty of reason for alarm.

Take this viral photo from Georgia where students are crammed into a hallway.

An outbreak has now been reported there in the first week of school.

If you look at the cases of spread in school right now, they all share common traits, it’s no mask wearing and low to no ventilation

Keeping the air clear in the nation's schools, now more important than ever.

Harvard put together a list of 20 questions parents should answer before sending their kids back to school. Among the top three:

  1. Are the number of cases in the area low enough for schools to reopen?
  2. When and how will masks be required and how will the school support mask use? and
  3. Will hand washing stations or hand sanitizer be available throughout the school, and when will children be required to wash their hands?

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