Osterholm: Schools should deploy air filters, ‘quality masking’ to mitigate spread of COVID-19

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Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that there is no way to guarantee 100% safety for children when they return home. school this year, but he said there are ways to make schools “safer” as classrooms open up.

“My strong desire is to see every child aged 12 and over get vaccinated, because it is the best way to protect returning students,” Osterholm said. “But I would also say that school rooms should have air exchanges five to six times an hour and that they should also have portable HEPA air filters, which work very well to trap the virus.”

Osterholm said that when COVID-19 restrictions first went into place in early March 2020, data showed transmission among children to be relatively low, but the delta variant reversed that trend. Children between the ages of 5 and 17 are now “much more likely to contract the variant than adults.”

“The virus is spread very quickly between children, through children and to children,” Osterholm said. “And that’s why I think a 3-foot social distancing recommendation is wrong and schools should aim for much greater social distancing than the 3-foot distance recommended by the CDC.”

And Osterholm said he supports universal masking in schools but prefers what he calls the “type of masking that works best.”

“I’m very much in favor of masking, but what I really support is quality masking – masking that really works like N95 masks.”

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