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article imageApproaching the opening of public spaces: COVID-19 safety

By Tim Sandle     Mar 28, 2021 in Health
As public spaces, including schools, start to open, what are the best policies to put in place to ensure that the risk of coronavirus transmission is minimized? Researchers have assessed the latest body of evidence.
Researchers based in the laboratory of Jonathan Eisen, a Professor at U. C. Davis, have reviewed the recommended advice issued by pubic sector and healthcare bodies in relation to the coronavirus and the risk of transmission within the school setting. These publicly issued documents are based on scientific reports, including research published in peer reviewed journals.
One concern with much of the guidance generated by governments in relation to the reopening of schools and public places is that the literature cited is relatively old. The situation one year ago, in terms of our knowledge and understanding of the coronavirus, is different to day. For instance, many documents from more than six-moths ago do not really take into account new information about at the airborne nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or about the variants that are spreading globally.
This is especially in relation to aerolsolization of the virus and the subsequent need for significant attention to ventilation and filtering.
However, the guidance, once pooled and evaluated, does provide some useful information from which a sensible COVID-19 screening and tracing program can be constructed. Focusing on personal protective clothing and associated mitigation strategies, such an approach will include:
Face masks
The consensus is that all people over the age of 2 should wear double layered face coverings. These face masks should be freely provided for those who need them.
Social distancing
It is important to always seek to maximize physical distancing when possible. The aim should be 2 metres (or 6 feet) apart from another person.
Hand hygiene
It is important to continue to encourage hand washing and sanitation, and provide facilities and materials to enable this.
Cohorting
Putting together stable cohorts (or social bubbles) of people that ideally remain in a single room all day, is the best policy. If rotation is needed, then thins should be kept to a minimum.
Limit overcrowding
It is useful to stagger start and end times in order to limit traffic and avoid overcrowding. With workplaces and school, no guests or outside visitors allowed access to buildings.
Mealtimes
Meals should be provides in well ventilated spaces or outdoors, if possible. Staggered meal times help to reduce overcrowding. staggered meal times. People should always sit 2 metres apart.
High droplet activities
There is less consensus with high droplet activities (such as singing, exercise, or sporting pastimes). However, it is generally recommended that social distancing increased, such as a 4 to 6 metre distance between people.
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