A “Ventilation Revolution” in Schools

Students returned to school last week with the classroom windows open in much of the country. It’s part of a new consensus that the Victorian Chief Health Officer is calling a “ventilation revolution.”

Improved ventilation has been described as “the missing link” for COVID prevention. In unventilated spaces, “the particles have nowhere to go,” says UQ’s Professor Lidia Morawska. “And they stay suspended in that air and people inhale them, even if they are further away than two metres from an infected person.”

This has led the NSW, QLD and other education departments to audit all classrooms for openable windows. For rooms without windows in NSW schools, 19,000 air purifiers have been purchased, with a cost believed to be over $50 million.

Professor Morawka is also advocating the use of carbon dioxide monitors. Carbon dioxide levels of upward of 1,400 ppm indicate poor ventilation.

This is of course a bonanza for COVID entrepreneurs. According to one report, the Andrews government has ordered 51,000 air filters.

A bonus is that HEPA filters double as air-purifiers for bushfire smoke. This has already led to their up-take in California in particular.

Paediatricians continue to caution that children are relatively less affected by COVID infection. The hospitalisation rate for children has been estimated at 2% of infections.

On the other hand, children remain a major vector for the disease. The 10-19 year-olds have contracted more cases of COVID than the 60 year-olds, 70 year-olds, or 80 year-olds. This makes the school system a significant medium of transmission between households, and puts teachers at risk.

The best news of all is that these may all be merely stop-gap measures. The US FDA authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 5-11 year-olds last Friday, meaning its use is surely coming to Australia before too long.

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