Last week, during the first Republican primary debate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly touted the way he handled the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming the Sunshine State “led the country out of lockdown, and we kept our state free and open.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida saw more than 1,870 new admissions in the week ending Aug. 12 — an increase of 11.6% from the prior week.
The situation reflects a larger trend across the country: More than 12,600 new admissions were recorded the week ending Aug. 12. That’s an increase of 21.6% from the prior week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rate of infection is so severe in Kentucky, that two school districts announced in-person closures for this week due to a spike in illness among staff and students, per USA Today.
The Runge Independent School District in southern Texas, which serves 195 students, announced a weeklong closure due to illnesses, ABC News reported.
The closures underscore the pandemic’s lingering presence, despite the fact that the current number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is far from the peak reached in the fall of 2021.
According to the New York Times, tens of thousands of schools across the country were repeatedly shut down at the height of the pandemic, many of which were closed due to poorly ventilated spaces that allowed the virus to spread easily. The publication noted that scientists who study viral transmission believe that the spread could have been prevented if the indoor air had been cleaner.
While the average American school building is approximately 50 years old, a 2020 study by the Government Accountability Office pointed out that 41 percent of school districts needed to update or replace the ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems in at least half of their schools.
And, as the New York Times reported, the money to make these changes — a combined $550 billion sourced from pandemic-related measures and other channels — is available.
“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix decades of neglect of our school building infrastructure,” Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the paper.
Despite this, the funds, according to the New York Times, have yet to be used as a result of a number of factors, including a lack of federal guidance on cleaning indoor air, supply chain delays, a dearth of experts who can advise schools on how to spend the money and more.
“I cannot believe the amount of money that is still unspent,” Dr. Allen told the outlet. “It’s really frustrating.”
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(Additional reporting provided by Benzinga Neuro)
Edited by Suparba Sil