California or Florida, which example do we want to follow for our schools?

Above are the numbers of admissions of children to hospital per day, due to COVID-19. The numbers are per 100,000 of the population, from CDC’s COVID-19 dashboard. On the left is data for the American state of Florida, on the right is for California. It is very important to note the different scales of the y axes! The scale for the California plot maxes out at 0.3 per 100,000 while Florida’s scale goes up five times higher, to 1.5 per 100,000. As I noted in an earlier blog post, the American school year starts earlier than in the UK, around mid-August depending on the school. American children have been back in back in classes for two or three weeks now. And the effect is easy to see, at least in Florida.

The obvious question is, why the difference between Florida and California? Well, Florida’s Governor DeSantis is very keen on actually suing schools to prevent the schools requiring masks. California is requiring masks indoors in schools. California also has good guidance on the use of ventilation and filtration in classrooms. Florida, not so much.

Looking at the two plots above, on the face of it we should be copying California not Florida. But are we? Masks are not required here, like in Florida. My fellow countrymen in Wales are spending money on ozone machines, not the air filtering machines that you can actually run during the school day, and that should make a difference. As ozone is toxic you can’t run ozone machines when classes are running. So, when the potentially infected children and teachers are present and breathing out virus, you can’t run these ozone machines. This is rather like the Invisible Boy’s superpower in the movie Mystery Men. He can become invisible but only when nobody is looking, which does rather limit the use of this superpower.

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