Osterholm: Schools should deploy air filters, 'quality masking' to mitigate spread of COVID-19 | KSTP.com

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

In this file photo, a student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk. Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File. In this file photo, a student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk.

Jay Kolls
Created: August 29, 2021 10:25 PM

All across Minnesota, strong debate continues over COVID-19 safety protocols as classrooms start to open this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend universal masking for students and staff, along with at least 3 feet of social distancing. Each individual school district in Minnesota is deciding its own course of action.

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

“My strong desire is to see every kid 12 years old and older to get a vaccine because that is the best way to protect students heading back to school,” Osterholm said. “But I would also say rooms in schools should have air exchanges five to six times every hour and they should also have portable HEPA air filter machines, which work very well in trapping the virus.”

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

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

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

“I am very strongly in support of masking, but what I am really supportive of is quality masking — masking that really works such as the N95 masks.”


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