Schools and universities across the country have different reopening plans, different strategies and, as is already clear, vastly different levels of success in welcoming back students. This is just the beginning.
As we head into seven months of the pandemic, it’s important to remember that this virus doesn’t adhere to a calendar or a schedule. It doesn’t fit into a new news cycle, and it certainly doesn’t respect the seasons. The challenges facing school administrators right now is immense, but it’s important to recognize that this is a short-term problem that can be addressed with short-term solutions. Safety should be a priority, and there are more steps we can take.
The United States leads the world with over 170,000 deaths from COVID-19, which means the realities of reopening are dramatically different from countries that have successfully suppressed the virus. Nations like Italy and the United Kingdom suffered early but were able to use science and strict guidelines to keep spread in check. They’ve also dramatically outpaced the United States in testing and contact tracing, two areas that leave American students at particular risk as they push to return to in-person learning.
Scientists have warned that the much-anticipated vaccine may be months or even years away from production and that the benefits will reach children last. Right now, clinical trials are focused on healthy adults, with later phases expanding to include more demographics and even at-risk populations. Most often children and pregnant women are the last to see such vaccines, which means millions of kids could spend 2020-2021 and beyond without protection.
Even when a vaccine is available, health officials and even schools may decide to wait until requiring its use until more evidence is available. That’s another problem for a safe reopening across the board. Experts believe we need 75-80% of the population to receive the vaccine. Already, a full 35% of adults say they would not get the vaccination; throw in the millions of kids who won’t have protection, and it could be years before we reach herd immunity from COVID-19.
Until that day, schools will need to enforce strict mask and social distancing practices. Clusters of positive cases have already sent in-person students home to quarantine, with over 1,000 students in a single Georgia school forced to isolate after just a single week of school. More school systems with plans for in-person or hybrid learning have scrambled to revert to remote lessons.
For administrators, solutions like air purification systems aren’t a short-term luxury. Clean air and proper ventilation systems will be a part of school success for months or years to come, reducing the risk of infection and helping to get kids back to class and parents back to work.
If we can help your school of business stay safe, let us know. We’ve been working hard to provide the solutions that will keep communities healthy during tough times.