[Podcast] Doc peels apart the big sticky questions about K-12 school mask mandates. What’s kicked off the flurry of mask/mitigation lawsuits filed by parents? Have county health services abandoned their obligations to school districts? Are school boards spending pandemic funds on football fields? Why are doctors invited to present at school board meetings instead of environmental services experts? Learn what is happening and what should be happening is schools around America.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP154-AUDIO
MASK GUIDANCE. Schools are frantically seeking guidance from county health departments. While some counties have stepped up, others have stepped away and turned off the lights. Boards of Education (BOEs) then attempt to align decisions to the CDC, state recommendation, advice from legal counsel, or local doctors.
MASKS IN THE REAL SCHOOL WORLD. School officials are unable to define what is an effective and acceptable mask. Hundreds of students might wear old masks, homemade masks, or fashion masks. Should schools issue masks to students and staff to ensure some baseline of quality? How are students educated about mask wearing and how are schools responding to medical exemption orders for some students with disabilities?
CONTACT TRACING. We’ve all heard this concept. In practice, it’s messy for schools providing in-person instruction. What frequently happens is that a student tests positive for COVID-19 and then the district notifies parents that their child was in “close proximity” to a child that tested positive for COVID-19. The parents are advised to observe their child for symptoms, but typically aren’t required to have the student self-quarantine or receive a rapid test. How does a parent distinguish symptoms of colds, seasonal flu, allergies, COVID-19, and fatigue?
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund (March, 2021) pumped cash into schools in the form of block grants that allowed schools to spend the dollars to increase student achievement or mitigate pandemic concerns. Some districts spent their dollars on staffing and cleaning. Others installed artificial turf athletic fields, tracks, and new weight rooms. There was much, and unchecked, interpretation of what measures promoted student health during a pandemic. Doc also notes that few schools spend the funds on HVAC upgrades due to the technical barriers of upgrading existing systems. For example, filters that remove viruses decrease air flow through the system and strain circulation motors. Furthermore, equipment and installers are in short supply as supply chains fell apart in 2021.
SHOULD SCHOOLS TEST FOR COVID-19 ON SURFACES AND IN THE AIR? Yes. Schools have utilized professional environmental services to test for mold or MRSA, remove impacted areas, and help to prevent future problems. Environmental companies that offer those services are able to test surfaces and air samples for the presence of COVID-19. Doc states that professional environmental services should be informing school boards about COVID-19 management in schools.
PARENTS SUE SCHOOLS – MY CHILD GOT COVID-10 AT SCHOOL. Doc notes very recent lawsuits that parents have filed against schools in his state alleging that the school “failed to implement reasonable COVID-19 mitigation measures.” How might schools respond to the lawsuits? Will parents prevail. If so, then what happens? Doc describes how foreseeable tort law might be something we begin to hear about and what that term means for BOEs.
This is episode 154 of The Safety Doc Podcast recorded on 10-12-2021 and published on 10-13-2021.
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