Thursday 20 August 2020
This is not the first time that leaders and officials around the world suffer before deciding to return students to school during a period of an epidemic, in 1918, while the Spanish flu was spreading, and although the world was a different place, the debate was very raging.
The Spanish flu killed nearly 50 million people around the world, including 675,000 Americans, before it ended, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In light of the spread of the Spanish flu, most American schools were closed as a precaution to prevent the outbreak of the disease, while CNN quoted historians that three cities decided to keep their schools open, namely New York, Chicago, and Newhaven.
American officials in the health sector, at the time, justified their decision that students in these cities were safer and better off in school, especially with the emphasis on indoor hygiene, and providing them with more nurses and health workers.
He was in New York in 1918, according to a report published in Public Health Reports, which was quoted by “CNN”, the most prominent of which was stated in it, about a million students, about 75 percent of whom live in crowded housing in unsanitary conditions.
According to the report, for students who live in crowded residential neighborhoods, schools will be a clean environment with good ventilation, as a number of teachers, nurses and doctors are willing to help them and conduct periodic medical inspections.
Dr. Howard Markell, a medical historian and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and one of the co-authors of the report, said that this decision caused an outbreak of influenza in New York, making it one of the cities most affected by the epidemic.
Dr. Royal S. Copeland, New York’s health commissioner at the time, told the New York Times that children were supposed to leave their unsanitary homes in order to go to the spacious, clean, and highly ventilated school buildings where constant inspections were conducted.
During the Spanish flu, students were not allowed to gather outside the school, and they had to inform teachers immediately of any health symptoms they felt, and in return the teachers conducted continuous checks of the students for any signs of influenza, and the students who had symptoms were isolated.
According to health reports issued at the time, a health sector official would immediately deal with any student who had a fever or had a high temperature, and took him to his home, with determining whether the case needed isolation or special care or not.
According to the Public Health Reports report, the United States Department of Health has asked families of children who are recovering at home to constantly interact with a family doctor, or to seek the services of a health doctor without paying any financial dues.
While the argument for leaving open schools in Chicago to about 500,000 students is that it will help keep children off the streets and the injured adults.
In contrast, research conducted during the Spanish flu epidemic showed that cities that adhered to precautionary measures, closed schools and prohibited gatherings, did not suffer the same as those that opened schools.
Many public health experts, including Markel, warn against reopening schools now during the spread of Covid-19, noting that it is very different from influenza, especially since there is still a lot we do not know about the coronavirus.
For its part, the World Health Organization answered a number of questions related to the risk of children returning to school in light of the spread of Covid-19, and said that the possibility of a child going to school depends on his health condition, the extent of Covid-19 transmission currently in the local community, and the protection measures taken in School and community in order to reduce the risk of epidemic transmission.
The World Health Organization stressed the importance of using clean and natural ventilation inside buildings where possible, without recirculating air, while maintaining well-maintained heating and cooling systems.
With regard to the decision to wear a mask (masks) inside schools, this depends on the risk assessment. The World Health Organization said – on its website – before making this decision, it is necessary to answer a set of questions, including “How widespread is Covid-19 in the community, for example? The school has the right to ensure the physical spacing between people of at least one meter, and are there students, teachers, or people with underlying health conditions?
The World Organization recommended the use of masks made of fabric to prevent the continued transmission of infection among the general population in public places, especially where physical distancing is not possible, and in areas experiencing community transmission of infection.
According to global health, the decision to open schools should include a set of benefits, including allowing students to complete their studies and move to the next stage, providing basic services, access to nutrition, and child care, such as preventing violence against children, in addition to providing reliable information on how to preserve On the safety of oneself and the safety of others, and recycling the economic wheel to allow parents to work.