Personal protective equipment ready for the start of the school year |

Personal protective equipment ready for the start of the school year

Eagle County Schools announced Tuesday the receipt of a substantial amount of personal protective equipment, including the first batch of 450 KN95 masks for student-facing staff provided by the governor’s office. The district has been working with the county to order adequate supplies for the start of school since it became clear that the pandemic would not resolve before the start of the 2020-21 school year.

“It’s great to receive the KN95 masks for our teachers and staff serving students,” said Superintendent Philip Qualman in a news release. “The state is sending these masks each week to help supplement the other gear we’ve purchased to keep staff and students safe.”

KN95 masks offer a higher grade of protection compared to cloth or surgical masks. Like N95 masks, KN95 masks filter out 95%+ of non-oil-based particles such as those resulting from wildfires, air pollution, volcanic eruptions, and bioaerosols (viruses). As the name suggests, these coverings block 95% of the particles they encounter. N95 masks are used in hospitals when intubating patients infected with COVID-19. The difference between the two masks is primarily country of manufacture.

On June 30, 2020, Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science published in the journal, Physics of Fluids, a visualization of emulated coughs and sneezes to assess the effectiveness of face coverings in obstructing droplets. The impressive video shows how far droplets travel using common mask materials. The range is 2.5 inches from a stitched cotton mask to about 8 feet without any covering. Wearing a face covering contains droplet spread, and combined with social distancing, helps reduce virus transmission.

Eagle County Schools ordered and received 172,000 disposable face covers, 9,500 reusable cloth face covering, 9,500 buffs, 500 no-touch, infrared thermometers, plus 1,100 gallons of hand sanitizer, and inventories of gloves, germicidal wipes, and face shields to start the school year.

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“Each student-facing staff member will have the PPE needed to create layers of protection against COVID-19,” Qualman said. “Staying home if sick, symptom checking before entry, wearing face coverings, maximizing social distance, cleaning throughout the day, hand-washing and sanitizing, reducing visitors, managing cohorts — this is not business as usual. Everyone is pulling together for our collective health and safety.”

In addition to Florida Atlantic, the University of California, San Francisco, has produced an article and video to help clear up confusion about the effectiveness of wearing masks. The idea supports the findings of Florida Atlantic — face coverings reduce the distance droplets travel. This reduction, plus staying outside of that perimeter around people, minimize exposure to droplets and the virus.

Eagle County Schools is watching the spread of COVID-19 in the community in hopes of returning to in-person instruction on August 25. A decision of how school will start, in-person, modified in-person, or remote, will be made around August 10, based on the health status of the community.

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