When schools called students for in-person classes the last year in August, they would notify everyone through an email about any incidence of a positive COVID occurrence on the premises. Such communications became familiar with the onset of the Omicron variant after Thanksgiving. Multiple cases emerged daily for the school year ending on June first week. The winter session saw almost daily issues, rising to a total of 11 out of nearly 1,450 students in a high school. Things eventually slowed as the variant became less intense before picking up the steam in April 2022 because of the arrival of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant. Although the spread is still there, one might not know whether the infection rate has paced up or paced down.
With summer vacations on the horizon, many parents are unsure what they should expect out of the situation – whether there will be another wave or riddance from it all. Health leaders are also contemplating the same. According to L.A. County Public Health’s Barbara Ferrer, the situation is uncertain, and one cannot predict anything around it. On the other hand, Paula Cannon (USC virologist) warns against the unpredictable nature of the virus. Because schools remain closed for summer vacation, outdoor activities will take over indoor time, whether they involve camping or sports programs.
There is fear that people can become complacent during summertime, with kids avoiding masks and other preventive measures in public spots like sporting events, graduation ceremonies, and parks. You can be certain of this if you dig into a few recent credible surveys hinting at this risk. According to a poll by MyBioSource, about 60% of Americans think COVID restrictions should not apply in public spaces anymore.
The last two summer seasons witnessed a negligible rise in COVID cases, with the curve increasing in July, recording 67,500 events of infection daily over a week, per the CDC. The peak was delayed in 2021, registering almost 164,500 cases daily in September. While summer 2022 is seeing a downward swing, the official summer has just started. Daily incidence has been around 110,000 nationwide, with a slight slump in the cases. Anyway, the best bet against virus safety is booster shots and vaccines.
Coming back to the classroom situation, some talk about things the school authorities can implement for everyone’s health.
Classroom air quality
Most US K-12 school buildings are nearly half a century old, meaning that their heating and cooling systems are either tired or broken. Before the pandemic also, these needed an upgrade. According to the Government Accountability Office, nearly 36,000 schools must change their HVAC systems. But schools required the funds for it, and after getting the federal aid for the pandemic, they could spend a sum on this.
When the pandemic started, scientists discovered that the viral infection was airborne. It clarified that keeping the area well-ventilated or filled with clean air is more necessary than merely sanitizing door handles or other surfaces. Schools that face infrastructure issues now have the money to improve them, while others have already invested in this area.
The survey took place somewhere from February to Marche 2022. According to the National School COVID-19 Prevention Study, about 39% of 420 schools surveyed said they replaced or upgraded their air ventilation and filtration mechanisms. Of them, 28% informed about installing HEPA filters in classrooms, and another 30% added these in the dining space. But a higher number of schools opted for cheaper solutions. Some moved their classroom activities outdoors, while 67% of other schools followed the policy of open doors and windows, as per the CDC data.
The need to maintain the clean air inside
Whether schools cannot afford or have delayed their efforts in this area, the experts suggest that keeping the air clean inside is crucial in this fight against COVID-19. It will help keep the risk of influenza, respiratory conditions, and allergies at bay. When students are healthy, they will attend school more. If schools don’t use the pandemic funds properly, others who have invested in this effort will consider it a wasted opportunity. Anisa Heming of Green Schools – U.S. Green Building Council says that the schools didn’t receive such amounts from the federal government in a centenary. However, there is also a possibility that they couldn’t make time for this purpose.
Memorial Day holiday, which reported fewer new cases, could have been lagging figures, and the large gatherings would have pushed the COVID spread. On the overall COVID-19 front, trends suggest that L.A. County may see a high level of community risks in the early months of July fueled by the subvariant. Over two weeks, the county witnessed an almost 20% increase in the new infection, with hospitalization also seeing an upward swing at a practically 21% peak.
The health leaders believe that new vaccines can prove helpful. Moderna is trying a new shot for Omicron, which seems to have done well so far in the initial stage. People who took the vaccine found eight times better production of antibodies against Omicron, as per the company.