University of São Paulo: Weaknesses of health protocols are identified on the return to face-to-face classes

The return of 100% face-to-face teaching across the country in February highlighted some weaknesses in safety protocols that threaten the health of children and adolescents. In an interview with Jornal da USP in Ar 1st Edition , Luiz Guilherme Cantarelli, a master’s student at the Department of Political Science at USP’s FFLCH and a member of the Solidarity Research Network, talks about the safety conditions of the classes and the data collected.

Regarding the return to classes and sanitary conditions, the professor comments: “We found that a process that began in the second half of last year, and was significantly accentuated in early 2022, is the process of eliminating measures in the protocols that they concern the distance in the classroom and the limits of occupation of the rooms. So, in the vast majority of state and municipal networks, we are seeing a 100% face-to-face return, without any class occupation limit;parallel to this, some basic measures in relation to masks, tests and some others were weakened or kept at very low levels. We believe that, given the epidemiological moment, making a parallel with other similar moments, such flexibility would not be justified without accompanying the stiffening of some other measures, such as masks, for example”.

The Solidarity Research Network built a safety index for returning to face-to-face classes. “We developed this index at the beginning of 2021, when some state and municipal networks started the hybrid return and it measures eight dimensions. They are divided into two categories, medium complexity and high complexity, in relation to the need for integration with other Departments, in addition to Education. Then, one goes through categories such as transport; distancing in the classroom and within the school; hygiene; remote teaching, which can provide the possibility of hybrid teaching; use and distribution of masks; ventilation; immunization; and testing,” reports Cantarelli.

Mask quality
For the professor, one of the points that drew the most attention in 2021 and remains a very sensitive point of the protocols is in relation to the quality of masks: “We found that many States and many capitals distribute masks or carry out awareness campaigns on their use. masks correct. But within these distributions or even within these informational campaigns, mention of the highest quality mask is very low. So, we have that, in 2021, only 18% of the States made any mention, either in the distribution or even in the campaigns to raise awareness of the use of PFF2 masks or with higher quality, and this number increased very slightly to 22% of the States. The vast majority of States make no mention in the protocols of the highest quality mask”.

One of the main mistakes in managing the pandemic in Brazil was not prioritizing testing in any context of the fight against the pandemic, including in schools. “One of the policies, which was already recommended by the network since last year, is the active testing of asymptomatic people, considering that the school environment is an environment that, given the characteristics of the regulars, of the students being very young, the number of asymptomatic patients is high”, emphasizes Cantarelli, who completes by saying that “it would be a good way to identify outbreaks, testing asymptomatic people in schools. But this is a policy that we do not adopt in any other sphere and in schools it was no different. In the States only 7% provided for this type of action and in the capitals this number was 15.4% last year and dropped to 7% this year as well. Then,

One of the measures monitored by the Research Network is the requirement for a vaccination card to return to school. For the professor, the numbers are low: “We found that this is a measure that was adopted by few states and few capitals. And, if we look at the epidemiological indicators, number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we are still at levels that, at other times of the pandemic, when we were at similar levels in terms of epidemiological indicators, the measures were much stricter in relation to the school protocols. So, as much as we have had a very considerable expansion with vaccination coverage, it has not yet been able to lead us to epidemiological indices that justify such flexibility in measures”.

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