It is clear that the scenario we are in – a new virus that changes unpredictably fought with a vaccine developed with a technology never used before – does not allow us to make certain predictions.
We know that three doses of the vaccine are essential (those who have not had them should be given immediately) and that the fourth dose is needed (for now only for older and more fragile patients, perhaps soon for a wider audience of people at risk) to drastically reduce risks but there are many things we don’t know. We do not know how long the protection afforded by vaccination will last, or whether new, much more effective vaccines will arrive soon, or whether we will have to make an additional dose in the fall and we cannot yet specify the type of vaccine. it will be necessary, if any, to inoculate. In short, we move in an extremely uncertain present that makes it difficult for us to reliably imagine the near future.
In this sea of doubt, however, there are two fixed points. The first is that we now know for sure that Covid-19 is transmitted by air extremely efficiently, and with these new variants the “social distancing” or disinfection of surfaces is useless. The virus is transmitted mainly by aerosols – imagine yourself as the smoke of a cigarette – and to avoid infection it is not enough to be far away or have a clean chair if you are in the same room with the windows closed.
The other sure thing is that schools will reopen in September. This will mean having dozens of students for many hours inside an enclosed space, because in cold weather, keeping the windows open will be a problem. These children – and their teachers – will speak (as they should in the classroom) emitting in words even aerosols in abundance. In fact, recent studies have clearly shown that there is no need to sing, shout, cough, or sneeze: just talk normally to emit a significant amount of potentially virus-laden aerosol that stays in the air long enough. to infect anyone in the same environment.
Faced with this problem, however, we are not powerless. We understood that transmission can be mitigated by using Ffp2 masks. But masks are uncomfortable, wearing them for many hours is tiring, they reduce the possibility of interacting with facial expressions and are a serious problem for those with hearing problems, they also use reading lip movement to understand others. .
But this is not the only possible solution: the alternative is to ensure adequate air exchange in the classrooms. Don’t think this is an original concept – if you go to a school built in the 1920s, you’ll be amazed at the height of the ceilings and the width of the windows. It wasn’t just for aesthetic taste: the buildings were designed this way because in those days the threat to health was tuberculosis, which is transmitted exactly like Covid-19, by spray. Fortunately, to ensure proper air exchange we will not have to demolish schools to rebuild new ones: today there are technological solutions that can ensure excellent ventilation even in “normal” environments. But these technology solutions need to be put in place, and that’s not happening.
In the face of the emergency we obviously could not change the school environments in a few days and so we had to ask our children for a double sacrifice. First stay home with distance learning, then put on the mask. But now we have a few months to intervene and it would be intolerable to have to recognize that a state that invests tens of billions to improve the energy efficiency of private homes neglects the health security of young people attending schools.
Ensuring adequate air exchange in classrooms would not only be an excellent and very useful investment in the short term, but also a very prudent option. First of all, of course, this intervention would decrease the circulation of Covid in the youngest. This, in addition to safeguarding the health of the students themselves, would be of indirect benefit to other citizens, as schools are one of the most effective “amplifiers” for the spread of viruses in a community. Second, this intervention would not only decrease Covid transmission: during the winter months there are many viruses circulating indoors, and even these infections would be limited with more benefits for everyone. We also know that other viruses could emerge and cause new pandemics in the future. Hopefully this won’t happen, but with school classrooms equipped with adequate air exchange we would be prepared to make the infection difficult.
Like I said, it’s impossible to make predictions. But it would be a real shame to find ourselves next fall having to re-impose the sacrifice of the mask (or distance learning) on our students just because in previous months thousands of works were funded to save energy in homes and no. even one to earn money, culture and health for those who attend a school.