The report of the GIMBE Foundation “COVID-19 safety in schools: from scientific evidence to the real world” summarizes data and evidence, noting the current criticalities:
• Student vaccination. As of 25 October 2021, 67.2% of the population aged 12-19 (3,064,055) had completed the vaccination course and 5.5% (249,401) had received the first dose.
The children who have not received even a dose of the vaccine are 1,243,466 (27.3%), with percentages not vaccinated ranging from 19.6% in the Sardinia Region to 43.8% in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano.
Moreover, the trend of vaccination coverage with at least one dose in the 12-19 year range, after the sharp increase at the beginning of June, gradually slowed down starting from September, when the value was still below 70%.
Personal vaccination. 91.2% of the school staff completed the vaccination course and 3% (46,945) received the first dose of vaccine; 90,002 (5.8%) have not yet received even a dose, with significant regional differences: from 3% in Veneto to 21.1% in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. It should be noted that the data has not been updated since 1 October 2021.
Use of masks. A rigorous simulation study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that at school, even in conditions of high immunity, the use of the surgical mask reduces the risk of transmission. “Until the vaccination coverage rate among students, school staff and the general population has reached higher percentages
– explains Cartabellotta – even considering that in the last two weeks 60% of cases diagnosed in the 0-19 age group occurred in the under 12s, the hypothesis of abandoning masks in classrooms with all immunized students is too risky, as well as posing privacy problems on the control of vaccination status and potentially generating the risk of discrimination “.
Periodic screening. The SARS-CoV-2 circulation monitoring plan in the schools of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità does not provide for periodic and systematic screening, but only for a sample testing campaign involving about 110 thousand students of the so-called primary and secondary “sentinel schools” first degree, using molecular tests on a salivary sample.
An easy-to-use and non-invasive test, but – as revealed by the report of the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention – with a low sensitivity (53-73%) in pediatric age, however conditioned by the sample collection method, depending on whether it is carried out by healthcare professionals or by self-collection. ”
In order to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies implemented – emphasizes Gili – it is essential that the data from these screening tests be made public, as well as the number of students and classes progressively placed in quarantine”.
Social distancing. The Memorandum of Understanding of the Ministry of Education provides for an “interpersonal distance of at least one meter, both in a static and dynamic position, if logistically possible”, or defines a flexible obligation, which can be waived in the presence of structural limits. This occurs, in particular, in the very numerous classes (so-called “chicken coop classes”) where maintaining social distancing can be substantially impossible.
Aeration and ventilation of closed rooms. Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs mainly by aerosols, too many resources continue to be invested in surface disinfection procedures and very few in aeration and ventilation systems. The Division Decree which assigned 350 million euros to schools provided for the purchase of “tools for ventilation”, but this intended use is not specified in
Legislative Decree 73/2021 which refers only to minor maintenance. Consequently, aeration and ventilation are entrusted to keeping the windows open, the effectiveness of which depends on the sensitization of the school staff and on the continuous ventilation of the rooms during the activities, which cannot fail to be conditioned by the weather conditions.