Schools can reopen in the fall—but only if a lot of hard work is done in advance to curb the spread of the coronavirus and to make school buildings safer, according to two op-eds in the July 20, 2020 Boston Globe written by experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
One of the pieces was written by Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. The other was co-authored by Benjamin Sommers, professor of health policy and economics; Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program; Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy; and Jessica Cohen, Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Associate Professor of Global Health.
Both op-eds called for taking strong measures in communities to curb the spread of COVID-19. For instance, Jha recommended measures such as strictly limiting the size of indoor gatherings, enforcing mask-wearing, ramping up testing and tracing, and closing bars, gyms, and indoor dining.
The researchers also recommended a variety of science-based risk-reduction strategies in schools, such as lowering classroom density by using cafeterias, auditoriums, tents, and trailers for learning spaces; staggering arrival and dismissal times; conducting regular testing and contact tracing; ensuring well-ventilated spaces; and promoting physical distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing.
“This is an enormously difficult task,” wrote Jha. “Politically, it is easier to call for reopening without doing the work to make it safe. But a key lesson we teach our kids is that you want to accomplish something important you have to work for it.”
Read the Boston Globe op-ed by Ashish Jha: Doing our homework to get kids back to school
Read the Boston Globe op-ed by Benjamin Sommers, Joseph Allen, Sara Bleich, and Jessica Cohen: Listen to the science and reopen schools