Covid19 and back to school. The preliminary strategic indications for the mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the school environment were published today.
The document developed by ISS, ministries and regions
The document, which concerns schools in the first and second cycle of education, was developed by the ISS, with the Ministries of Health and Education and the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces.
Standard prevention measures, but also additional interventions
On the one hand, standard preventive measures (from masks to disinfection) are proposed for the beginning of the school year, which take into account the current framework, but also additional efforts that must be modulated based on the risk assessment.
Within a few days, a specific document will be published with indications for kindergartens.
What the document provides
The document identifies as possible basic preventive measures for school recovery: school stay only allowed without symptoms/fever and without diagnostic test for positive Sars-CoV-2; hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; use of respiratory protection (FFP2) for school staff and students who are at risk of developing severe forms of Covid-19; ordinary (periodic) and extraordinary sanitation in the presence of one or more confirmed cases; tools for managing suspected/confirmed cases and contacts; frequent air changes.
The document identifies as possible additional preventive measures based on possible public health needs and changes in the epidemiological framework: distance of at least 1 m (where logistical and structural conditions allow); precautions in moments of risk of aggregation; increase in the frequency of periodic disinfection; management of extracurricular activities, workshops, ensuring the implementation of preventive measures; surgical masks, or FFP2, in a static and/or dynamic position (must be modulated in the different contexts and phases of schooling); concession of gyms/clubs to third parties with an obligation to clean; administration of meals in canteens with shifts; consumption of snacks at the counter.
The Gimbe Foundation’s study for the National Association of Deans
The absence of intervention on aeration and ventilation prevents the return to teaching without masks. Schools’ use of public resources for surface disinfection activities has been massive, but consideration of scientific evidence requiring investment to improve air quality has been limited. This is one of the findings that emerged from the investigation by the Gimbe Foundation in collaboration with the National Association of Public Leaders and High Professionalism at School (NPC), which involved 312 educational institutions. The results of the survey were published at the end of July.
Difficulty tracking activities
The study also reveals difficulties in tracking activities: in one case out of three ASL delays in the activation of the procedures for which they are responsible. 76.2% of respondents stated that they received surgical masks in larger quantities than necessary.
Windows open in schools
To improve ventilation and aeration of the premises, the “open windows” protocol was mainly relied upon, to a lesser extent on air purification and filtration equipment, and controlled mechanical ventilation systems were installed in only 9 cases.
Get information from the Ministry and local health authorities
In 46% of cases, no information was received from the ministry or the local health authority about the widespread transmission of the virus by aerosol and about devices or systems for ventilation of school environments. In only 14.8% of cases did the information relate to both questions. “The absence of structural interventions capable of guaranteeing adequate ventilation and aeration of the premises – comments Antonello Giannelli, president of the ANP – is the real Achilles’ heel, in the absence of which the next school year can hardly be faced without resorting to ” use of masks”.
Critical issues in schools must be resolved before students return to class
Instead, he promoted the Italian schools for hand hygiene, partly for temperature control. “The results of the study – explain Giannelli and the president of the Gimbe Foundation, Nino Cartabellotta – provide an objective picture of the measures implemented to increase Covid-19 security in schools and reveal various critical problems that should hopefully be solved before the start of school 2022-2023.In contrast to last school year, some prevention efforts are also ‘blunt’: the vaccine’s effectiveness against the infection was found to be lower in the 5-11 year range compared to the older age groups, and the current coverage (with two doses) stopped at . around 35%, with significant regional differences, while the third dose has not yet been approved by Ema; secondly, with a variant as infectious as Omicron 5, the tracing activities are of limited use; finally, less than 1% of infections are due to contact with infected surfaces, while the role of airborne diffusion and the importance of ventilation systems are now evident”.
The other data that emerged from the survey
In particular, the ‘report card’ provides excellent hand hygiene for 98.7% of dispenser availability in relevant rooms, 92.9% of standardized procedures and 91.6% of training interventions for school staff and students. For vaccinations, 46.8% carried out information activities about the anti-Covid-19 vaccination campaign aimed at students and parents, 21.5% involved students only. Just under a third of schools (31.7%) did not carry out any promotion of the pupil vaccination campaign compared to the Ministry of Education. The local health authorities only carried out vaccinations on school premises in 11.9% of cases, and 45.1% of the heads of the schools where it was not carried out do not consider this initiative to increase vaccination coverage relevant “probably – comments Giannelli – because the current legislation does not facilitate such experiences”.
Timing was then respected for quarantine measures in about two-thirds of cases, for temperature measurement in 96.5% of cases units were purchased, although in almost 40% of cases the measurement was delegated to families, while FFp2 masks were worn by all students for the full expected duration in 97.4% of cases, and distance was possible in 66.6% of cases.