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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on everyone and we are all looking forward to getting back to normal. There are learnings from each wave that we must use in an effort to crawl towards normalcy. Planning the smooth resumption of indoor activities in schools under current circumstances can be challenging because there are many factors involved in ensuring a safe return. Ventilation in schools needs to be improved before kids return to class and safety measures such as physical distancing and wearing a well-fitted N95 FFP2 certified mask must be followed.
Proper ventilation is a key prevention strategy for maintaining healthy environments and, along with other preventive actions, can reduce the likelihood of spreading the respiratory disease by reducing the number of airborne virus particles. As a general rule, the risk of contracting airborne transmitted diseases indoors is high. There are numerous cases that show that aerosols in poorly ventilated indoor environments combined with super spreader events are the main cause for the spread of the disease. Therefore, improvements should be made to increase ventilation, by installing mechanical ventilation. In North India and most of Urban India, we may need to install filtration as well to maintain safe levels of PM2.5 indoors.
Poor ventilation increases the CO2 concentration and consequently the risk of viral infection in the presence of sick occupants. CO2 in outside air is about 400 parts per million (ppm) and a well-ventilated room will be no more than 800 ppm. A CO2 reading below 800 ppm indicates a low risk of infection, CO2 reading between 800 ppm to 1,500 ppm indicates a moderate risk of infection, and CO2 reading above 1,500 ppm indicates a high risk of infection. Without CO2 monitors and with a flawed ventilation model, there is no evidence that all school spaces are safe. Therefore, every school should have CO2 monitors which verify how well air is circulating in classrooms and other spaces.
In addition to ventilation, wearing a well-fitting, multi-layer N95 FFP2 certified mask helps keep virus particles from entering the air and protects mask wearers. With the introduction of the 3-layer nanofiber Airific N95 and Nirvana N95 masks for adults and children in 2020, Nirvana Being pioneered a new and much-needed category of reusable/washable masks, with a high filtration efficacy. These masks offer > 96% Viral Filtration Efficiency and are certified by international labs across America, Europe and India. Moreover, Nirvana Being is the South Asia licensee for Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Mattel masks for kids and adults. The masks are available in fun designs and multiple sizes for a snug and comfortable fit.
The above are a few examples of how science and technology can provide tools to support decision-makers. The next step is to apply these recommendations to make well-informed decisions for reopening schools safely.
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