How far Should we Be away from Each Other? My Latest Thinking on the Pandemic and Schools

WHO Tashkent Office Situation Report – August 31, 2020

Our leadership team continues to closely monitor the pandemic here in Uzbekistan. Above is the periodic situation report from our friends over at the UN-WHO office here in Tashkent. According to the official statistics, you can see that the number of cases is falling, with a total of 368 cases, 174 in Tashkent city and another 94 in the Tashkent region. There are almost 2400 people being treated in hospitals with 387 in serious condition. The Minister of Health is deploying sanitary experts to help schools open on September 14, and is quoted, “We have no right to turn educational institutions with more than 480,000 teachers and over 6.2 million students into a hotbed of the epidemic”.

AAIE pointed out an excellent medical research website called BMJ. I read with interest the studies of physical distancing. We debated about spacing in classrooms and settled on 1.5 meters distance between desks. There is limited research in the area, with one study showing that infection rates increase by 10.2% (12.8% from 2.6%) with at least a 1 meter distance between subjects. Other studies show that singing, panting from exercise and talking loudly can propel particles 7 to 8 meters. Much also depends on air circulation in a space. One Japanese study showed infections occur 18.7 times more indoors than outdoors. There are few instances of outbreaks on planes, the guess being people are not talking loudly. The article summarizing the research in this area featured the chart below. For schools, the second category “wearing face coverings, contact for prolonged time” is most of what we are working with. As I am seeing more and more, ventilation is key and will allow us to do more.

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