COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S., a harsh reality that is preventing in person learning for schools and universities. “What will it take to return kids to the classroom and keep schools open? Though vaccines have been approved, it may be months before children, their families, and school personnel are vaccinated. Until then, implementing a plan that includes processes for virus detection and response is paramount,” says Dr. Jonathan Spero (www.inhousephysicians.com), an expert on pandemic preparedness whose company is delivering COVID-19 testing to universities around the country COVID-19 and for over a 900 K-12 schools in New York City.
“The problem that schools and universities are facing is there is still a significant prevalence of COVID in many communities,” Spero says. “These organizations need to do everything they can to prevent student outbreaks; otherwise it’s going to continue shutting down schools.
“But on top of that you have to deal with a tremendous amount of anxiety. The students, parents, faculty, and staff are all on pins and needles because they are feeling insecure about their health. The only way to address all of this is through a comprehensive health security strategy that can work when so many variables are in play.”
Spero offers these suggestions to safely open schools while navigating the continuing COVID-19 crisis:
● Daily temperature checks. “They’re not a fool-proof way to see if someone has COVID,” Spero says. “A significant number are asymptomatic, but fever is a common symptom, and because it is, temperature checks should be a fundamental daily procedure.”
● Screening for symptoms and close contacts. This starts at home, where parents can help prevent the spread at schools by keeping children home who are showing COVID-like symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with COVID. “At schools, everyone returning should be screened on a range of symptoms,” Spero says. “Those with symptoms should be sent home and referred for testing.”
● COVID surveillance testing. Though this is rarely being done in K-12 schools and not common in universities, Spero says “asymptomatic testing of student population regularly is a very effective way to limit the spread of of the virus in the school.” Positive test results necessitate the immediate need to perform contact tracing with the goal of identifying everyone who was in close contact with the infected student.
● Daily prevention protocols. Spero says “prevention measures include mask-wearing by all students and staff throughout the school day, frequent disinfection of surfaces, the availability of hand sanitizers in classrooms, frequent reminders to wash hands, and as much social distancing as possible in classrooms.”
“Positivity rates in the community need to be held to a reasonable level for schools and universities to be open”, Spero says. “And when they are open, these organizations do have a number of tools, that when integrated with each other, can be very effective at avoiding a COVID outbreak. But if they are not implemented, ultimately we will see schools close again.”
About Dr. Jonathan Spero
Dr. Jonathan Spero (www.inhousephysicians.com) is a physician and an expert on pandemic preparedness and employee health. For over 30 years he has been the CEO of InHouse Physicians, which is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of employees and meeting attendees around the world. InHouse Physicians regularly supports some of the highest-profile corporate sales, incentive, and executive programs in the world, including the Olympic Games and World Cup. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Spero and InHouse Physicians have been delivering employee health services to critical infrastructure corporations, offering medical care and COVID testing. Dr. Spero completed his medical training at the University of California.