Why haven’t we properly prepped schools for COVID-19?

Re “The messy science behind the coronavirus and opening schools" (BostonGlobe.com, Sept. 22): My colleagues appropriately highlight the scientific uncertainties surrounding decisions about school reopening, and the serious harm to children who cannot go to school. But the importance of two specific protective measures not mentioned in their piece is, in fact, well accepted: (1) Small classes with their teachers that remain together exclusively, also called cohorting, and (2) ventilation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report they cite on COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island child care centers actually attributes a rarity of secondary viral transmission to “maximum class sizes and use of face masks for adults.” Cohorting and “maximal outdoor programming” were also among the extensive measures (including quarantining and testing) implemented by the cited Maine summer camps that successfully limited secondary viral transmission. “Maximal outdoor programming” addresses the issue of possible airborne transmission of the virus. In Denmark, classes are held outside, as was advocated for our country as well. Indoors, adequate ventilation limits possible airborne transmission. The Baker administration’s lack of timely action to prepare all schools with the building upgrades and staffing levels needed to reopen safely is difficult to understand. These investments are needed now, as a matter of racial justice and of common sense. Apparently, it comes down to money.

Dr. Julia Koehler



The writer is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.