Monday, August 8, 2022

Covid-Free Schools are Possible!

A school in Texas has been 100% Covid-free with zero learning loss. They used good masks indoors (N95 or better) with no 'mask breaks.' Everyone eats outdoors even in the hottest weather. Every room has a HEPA or Corsi-Rosenthal box filter and a CO2 monitor to track air quality. At 650ppm, windows open even in the worst weather. At 800ppm, students vacate the room. 

It helps significantly that they acknowledge that, "There is no such thing as a harmless single case of Covid" because of the potential for long-term effects on kids, for seeding a super-spreader event, and/or for hosting a mutation. 

I feel a mix of vindication, jealousy, and trauma reading about it. Trauma as in "lasting emotional response after a distressing event" (CAMH). 

My CO2 monitor would regularly read over 2,000 after 30 kids ate lunch in the room. Teachers aren't in the room for lunch, so this particular group of kids (another teacher's class) would regularly turn off the CR box and close the windows AS they took off their masks to eat and chat. I would come in at the end of the break to open the windows and turn on the filter. I can't shake that day when admin marched down to my classroom during class, after a complaint, to tell me that students can't learn with the windows open 1/2". And then they discovered my contraband CR box, and demanded that I remove it at once. They were pleasant about it all, but after two years of Covid, they still didn't know what a CO2 monitor was for, and didn't seem to care.

And I don't see signs of it improving.

I left shortly after. I was, and still am, unable to process schools operating in a way that potentially harms kids, ignorant of the needs for masks, ventilation, and filtration. Any suggestion I made or concern raised was met with eye-rolling or "it isn't your place to tell us anything" - stay in your lane admonishments - as I pleaded for protections. 

We have to follow the science, not the politicking. We're overfilling hospitals, and the valleys in our graphs are higher than previous peaks! 

Pretending it's fine for students and staff to catch a brain-invasive virus doesn't make it safe. But I have no idea how to convince people in charge. At the very least, my continued ranting post retirement might persuade people it wasn't just about keeping me safe. It's as unnerving to watch kids completely unprotected after masks were removed as it would be watching them play in traffic. In Ontario this month, Covid deaths were over 7x as frequent as fatalities from car collisions (315 collision fatalities in a year, in 2021, vs 191 deaths from Covid in a month: May 16-July 14). Covid has killed more little ones than drownings in the past year. 

But we wouldn't put our kids in an unsafe vehicle without at least a good seatbelt in place. And we wouldn't leave them our of arms reach in water without a life preserver. So why are so many comfortable letting them mingle with a virus without a simple N95 mask? 

We need to resign ourselves to the reality that vaccinations aren't a cure-all for this virus. They can help keep us out of the hospital, but don't do as much to prevent transmission, long-term illness, or mutations as we had hoped. And we need to bring back mask mandates with N95s or better, and ALLOW teachers to use Corsi-Rosenthal boxes and keep their windows open when their CO2 monitor hits over 700ppm. AND we have to be allowed to announce cases/room. I had a student who felt a little under the weather, but insisted it wasn't Covid. I knew that the student in that desk in the prior class had just tested positive for Covid, but I could only suggest - repeatedly - that he stay home a few days and test. Teachers' hands shouldn't be so tied that they can't help preserve the health and well-being of students. We're told to do our own risk assessment, but that's not possible without any information of cases in our area. 

And we need to ensure that all staff, but especially administrators, understand the science of this virus and the next ones coming. 

ETA: Of course, as I was writing this, Lecce just announced no to masks and yes to sports because kids deserve a normal year. Unfortunately, we can't just SAY everything's back to normal as Covid and Monkeypox run through our schools. Learning loss comes from students and teachers being away in a continuous rotation of cases that affects course continuity. Board have to step up on this! Without good policy to guide us, messaging is vital. If school boards say anything that implies, "Try to be nice to the crazy maskers," we'll see NO masks in classrooms. We need something like: 
"Keep in mind viruses are in the air and masks can protect you from them. We're much more protected as more of us wear them. Show you care with a mask!
I put together a doc of information on Covid and Monkeypox. It was originally a group website, but it's currently bogged down with a quest for perfect wording to stave off any potential haters. I try to just ignore the haters, and use the studies collected in the doc to convince the few that aren't entirely swept up in the "normalcy" of our lives:

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