There were a few vital considerations missing, in whole or in part, from the Globe’s Aug. 14 editorial “Listen to the data on school reopening.”
Face masks, distancing, cleaning, handwashing, and one open classroom window (state regulations) are insufficient to protect from airborne-aerosol transmission of the coronavirus; robust ventilation, filtration, and supplemental systems are essential but often lacking, thereby making these schools unsafe for any occupant.
In addition, community infection rates don’t account for teachers and staff coming to work from hundreds of communities (and several states); the infrastructure for rapid testing, tracing, and addressing outbreaks doesn’t exist; flu season begins in October; the list of concerns goes on.
No one believes that online learning is ideal; however, it can be improved over the crisis instruction of last spring, and may well be the best alternative to protect the health of students, teachers, staff, and the public in the midst of a pandemic. Time and funding to properly address all deficiencies are essential before school buildings are reoccupied.
This deadly folly of missteps evokes the oft-cited quote: Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after all the alternatives have been exhausted.
The writer is a retired occupational health specialist, formerly with the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and the United Steelworkers. She is the mother of a Boston Public Schools high school teacher and the grandmother of BPS elementary school students.