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Ventilation should be part of the conversation on school reopening. Why isn’t it?

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An opinion by Xandra Feathers ’06 published by STAT and picked up by PBS NewsHour: “Ventilation should be part of the conversation on school reopening. Why isn’t it?”

Like every other parent with a school-age child, I want schools to reopen in the fall — including the one I’m attending.

On the best of days, my son can be described as “spirited.” After four months of being cared for by his grandparents, he is practically feral. He needs the physical and social outlet that school provides, and I need the anatomy lab to reopen because human dissection is an irreplaceable part of my medical education.

But I am also an epidemiologist, and after reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for school reopening and the various accompanying news coverage and think-pieces, I can’t convince myself that following its rules will keep my family — or yours — safe.

Why? Because the primary way Covid-19 is transmitted is through respiratory droplets that careen through the air, and yet the capricious nature of air circulation and the lack of filtration systems in our already underfunded public school systems is absent from the conversation.

Read the full article “Ventilation should be part of the conversation on school reopening. Why isn’t it?” on STAT…

About Xandra Feathers ’06

Alexandra (Xandra) Feathers is a graduate of the Antioch College Class of 2006. Xandra is an epidemiologist and first-year medical student at SUNY Downstate. She has a Master’s in Public Administration and Public Health from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and majored in Social and Global Studies at Antioch College.


  1. John Feinberg

    Many factors are part of air exchange considerations; the exchange rate, the quality of the outside air, and the system capabilities; filtration, fan capacities, controls, and the system components allowing the airborne bacteria to be killed. The last is NOT that expensive and hydrogen peroxide is being touted as is a long term process of UV light. Right?
    look to the Hospitality industry, and Athletic Clubs as their liability is highest. They can be sued and while schools can also be sued it is in the public arena and much more difficult.
    An important cost factor is the more air you push through the system by having increased the added volume of fresh air the greater the cost to operate. Who we did the Glan Helen Ecology center we increased the energy efficiency manifold but the fresh air exchange rate required more throughput (volume) and costs to temper the air…

  2. William Forrest

    I’m reminded of the carnage in Nursing Homes, Cruise Ships, Aircraft Carriers, and similar places. I think it’s airborne aerosols, but can’t prove it. There are many key measurements which should be made, but haven’t yet. Detect the aerosols using techniques astronomers developed to detect tiny dust particles in space. Identify the aerosol particles via their infrared spectra. If I weren’t retired, and saw a chance, I’d jump on this right now.


    Check out HUD regulations on room size and healthy air. We have been adding numbers to classrooms, airplanes, etc. without regard to healthy breathable air! Your point is so valid!!

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