It’s officially back-to-school season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States. And getting our children safely back to school is a major priority for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
To help schools create safe learning environments, AAFA sent a letter to the School Superintendents Association (AASA). The letter outlines two key recommendations:
- School districts should use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to improve indoor air quality in schools.
- Schools should follow recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
To help with the first recommendation, we encourage schools to use the Department of Education’s recently released guidance, “Improving Ventilation in Schools, Colleges, and Universities to Prevent COVID-19.” This guidance outlines strategies to improve ventilation. AAFA urges all superintendents to consider the department’s guidance carefully and to make evidence-based investments in their facilities’ air quality.
Along with improving indoor air quality, mask wearing will be critical for safe school environments. Like the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends a layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers, and staff. It includes a recommendation that everyone older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of if they’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine. AAFA fully supports these recommendations.
We must use science and data to guide decisions about the pandemic and school COVID-19 plans. AAFA urges states to reject policies that would ban mask mandates. We often receive questions about the safety of mask wearing by people with asthma. Several studies have shown that people with asthma can wear masks safely.
It’s important for people with asthma to remember that if their asthma is well-controlled, they should not have a problem wearing a mask. But if they do, they should talk with their doctor. Also, people with asthma may need to try several different types of masks to ensure they fit properly and are comfortable to wear.
AAFA looks forward to working with the school superintendents to improve indoor air quality and promote health in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. To help, AAFA has also developed a “COVID-19 and Asthma Toolkit for Schools.” It is a tool to help schools manage asthma while preventing the spread of COVID-19. It can serve as a supplement to current CDC, state, and school district guidelines.