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Expert: What needs to happen for kids to safely return to school

One expert believes there are risks to sending kids back, but schools can significantly reduce those risks by taking a number of steps.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Even with COVID-19 case numbers increasing, Governor Kate Brown is allowing about 130,000 kids to go back to in-person class. Fifteen counties can immediately start in-person classes for K-12.

Another nine counties can start Kindergarten-6th grade. That includes Clackamas County.   

Multnomah County has too many Covid cases to re-open. Still, the question some might have: Is it too soon?

Portland State University researcher Dr. Richard Corsi has studied indoor air safety for nearly three decades. He believes there are risks to sending kids back, but schools can significantly reduce those risks by taking a number of steps.

"The first one is required masks for everybody," he said. "You have to require masks for everybody because you normally don't know who's infected."

De-densifying classrooms is also important, as is de-cluttering.

"De-cluttering classrooms so you can allow for physical distancing," Corsi said.  Classes need to be staggered so that not all students get out at the same time.

Outdoor activities, including lunches should be encouraged. Ventilation should be increased in all classrooms and air filters brought in.

"Portable air cleaners used in the right classroom, a 600 square foot classroom, can get you anywhere from 50 to 90 percent reduction in aerosol particles in air," Corsi said. 

He said doing all these things can reduce the chance of spreading the virus through the air by up to 95 percent.

"The greater the dose, the greater the risk, and likely the greater the dose the greater the severity of infection," he said. "So lowering the dose is what's its all about."