While it is important for school districts to take direction from the Denver Department of Public Health, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and federal public health authorities, following are four tips to help keep local school buildings healthy and reduce COVID-19 risk:
Quality ventilation can reduce and often prevent droplets from spreading airborne. Servicing unit ventilators, sensitive adjustments to air filtering, structured cleaning of diffusers, and plans to respond to makeup air and air exchange as influenced by occupant density, must be incorporated into operational guidelines. Special consideration should be directed toward “factory styled,” enclosed schools constructed post-World War II with limited air exchange. Fortunately, many have been renovated, but not all.
2. Air Quality
Scheduled air-quality testing is important, especially with a focus on dilution ratios in highly occupied areas. This involves more than having the routine HVAC mechanical engineer work to model pre-COVID-19 standards; rather, the air-quality standards must be oriented to public health — always factoring in use and density patterns, along with air exchange and filtration considerations.
There is significant research indicating that UV lighting may “break down” COVID-19, inhibiting its ability to contaminate. New technologies may allow for higher occupation of areas that have been exposed to ultraviolet lighting. While this option is still being studied, there is clear but preliminary meta-research indicating that the introduction of several variations of UV lighting will safeguard an enclosed environment. In general, improved lighting has been found important in the educational process in terms of both illumination and psychological effects. When possible, arrange classrooms to capture direct light from windows. In addition, use blue-enriched lighting in rooms for areas that don’t have windows.
Cleaning and sanitizing are different activities. Cleaning is primarily designed to remove food, dirt, human dander and other particles often found on surfaces in high-population density areas. Cleaning reduces bacteria, rendering the areas healthier. Sanitizing is focused on a level and separate type of hygiene that reduces virus-related disease. EPA- approved disinfectants will keep often-touched, smooth surfaces safer for prescribed periods of time — significantly reducing the potential for hand-to-mouth contact and consequent virus-related disease. Soft surfaces, such as carpets, curtains and some furniture, should also be cleaned with regularity. However, next to airborne exposures, smooth surfaces in common areas, such as doorknobs, restroom areas and railings, represent the greatest possibility of virus transmission and require extra sanitization.