Op-ed: Opening windows can make schools safer during pandemic

Opening windows in schools during the fall can help bring in enough fresh air to disperse coronavirus particles, according to researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In an August 27, 2020 op-ed in the Washington Post, the researchers—Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program; Jack Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation; and Jose Cedeño-Laurent, research associate and associate director of the Healthy Buildings program—said that it’s important to dilute tiny viral particles, which can linger in the air for hours. Mechanical ventilation or air cleaners can help, but most schools don’t have adequate systems in place, they said.

“Open windows and doors,” the authors wrote. “It’s the simplest and quickest way to increase the air-exchange rates.” They acknowledged that opening windows is not a panacea, and recommended that while the weather is mild, schools work on improving their ventilation systems or consider the use of portable air cleaners.

“And remember,” they wrote, “airborne transmission is not the only way to contract the virus; we still need to wear masks, wash our hands and distance as much as possible.”

Read the Washington Post op-ed: Want to buy schools time? Open the windows.