“To keep schools open, there is an urgent need to implement more effective on-site mitigation strategies, with particular attention to ventilation and testing. In addition, it is essential that teachers and other school staff should be added to the priority list for vaccination.”
–Dr. Asanati, National Heart & Lung Institute
“The partial or full closures of schools nationwide have brought to public light how crucial a role indoor air quality plays in curbing coronavirus transmission in buildings and promoting well-being overall.”
–Kristen Keim, Center for Green Schools (Source)
Urgent Need for a Safe Return
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced our society to make many profoundly tough choices. One of the most controversial decisions has been whether or not to reopen our elementary and high schools. Reopening and returning to school is critically important for parents, children and educators across the nation. As such, there is an urgent need to make schools safe from COVID-19. Understanding the risks for transmission and solutions to mitigate those risks are key for school districts as they plan for their safe return.
The CDC Released New Guidance on Ventilation
A significant milestone was reached when the CDC released new guidelines for Ventilation in Schools and Child Care Programs. The CDC’s strategy is layered with a new emphasis on the importance of ventilation. Ensuring proper air ventilation and filtration, when combined with other best practices recommended by the CDC (e.g., masks, physical distancing, hand-washing, surface cleaning), provides a comprehensive strategy to protect staff and students from indoor airborne contaminants such as the coronavirus.
Highlights of CDC’s Recommendations to Improve Ventilation:
Ventilation is one component of maintaining healthy environments, and is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy for schools and childcare programs. . . . Good ventilation is another step that can reduce the number of virus particles in the air. Along with other preventive actions, ventilation can reduce the likelihood of spreading disease.”
Below are ways to improve ventilation in schools or a childcare program, whether in a large building or in a home as recommended by the CDC:
- Bring in as much outdoor air as possible by opening windows. Consider having activities, classes or lunches outside when reasonable.
- Ensure HVAC settings are maximizing ventilation to bring in as much outdoor air as your systems safely allow. Increase HVAC system’s total airflow supply to occupied spaces where possible. For simple HVAC systems controlled by a thermostat, set the fan control switch to “on” instead of “auto” to ensure continuous air filtration and distribution.
- Improve the level of air filtration as much as possible without significantly reducing airflow. Make sure the filters are sized, installed, and replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Consider portable air cleaners that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to enhance air cleaning wherever possible, especially in higher-risk areas such as a nurse’s office or sick/isolation room.
- Consider using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) in schools and non-home-based childcare programs as a supplemental treatment to inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19, especially if options for increasing ventilation and filtration are limited.
The CDC also recommends taking the following steps can help reduce employee risk of exposure to the coronavirus:
- Instruct sick workers to stay home.
- Consult with an HVAC professional and building management to maintain relative humidity between 40-60%.
- When changing filters, ensure workers wear appropriate personal protective equipment. ASHRAE recommends N95 respirators, eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields), and disposable gloves.
- Make sure exhaust fans in restrooms are fully functional, operating at maximum capacity, and set to remain on.
- Ensure policies encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Our Specialized Solutions
No doubt ventilation is vital for solving for reopening schools in 2021. White Coat Disinfecting is partnering with schools and businesses to provide Indoor Air Quality Services Orlando and throughout Florida. Our specializations include the following Indoor Air Quality Services:
- HVAC UV Light Installation: Germicidal UVC Disinfection using UVC 254 nm light installed within the HVAC system, inactivates the coronavirus in 0-2 seconds.
- Air Disinfectors: 6-stage Air Purifiers with HEPA filters for the classrooms with a digital read-out to “see” the air.
- Regular Professional Disinfecting Services: Reach high-contact and hard-to-reach areas for a clean slate each time.