Covid-19 Accountability Working Group

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The Air They Breathe: NYC Teachers’ School Ventilation Complaint Spotlights Complex Challenge, Zoë Kirsch, The 74, Oct. 29, 2020

Less than a week after students in the nation’s largest school district returned for in-person learning, 46 teachers from nine schools in Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor, asking authorities to investigate ventilation across city schools.

The teachers are represented by attorneys from the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Environmental Justice Initiative, the group that was one of the first to sound the alarm about dangerous airborne carcinogens in the days after 9/11.

“We’re not against the schools reopening. We just want safe schools,” said Joel Kupferman, head of the justice initiative and one of the lawyers spearheading the case. “The school system didn’t fix [ventilation] for decades. We’d like to know how they fixed it in one week.” …more

NYC educators say air in schools won’t keep them safe from coronavirus, file state complaint, By Christina Veiga, Chalkbeat,  October 7, 2020

In a complaint filed this week, a group of New York City teachers and other school staffers charged that their workplaces are unsafe and that more rigorous testing of campus ventilation systems is necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the 46 school workers who signed onto the complaint, filed Monday with the state labor department, remain anonymous. They call for enhanced inspections and for the city to conduct any necessary repairs.

Although the complaint covers only the nine different campuses where the educators work, they claim the problem is pervasive systemwide because the city has not rigorously checked campus ventilation systems. 

A spokesman for the education department said that repairs have already been completed in all but 100 school spaces, out of 2,800 that were identified in need of fixes. …more

NYC Schools Lack Ventilation to Stop COVID Spread, Environmental Justice Initiative & PEER Press Release, October 5, 2020

Teachers File Complaint Charging Unsafe Conditions in Re-Opened Schools

New York — Many New York City schools lack sufficient ventilation to stem the spread of COVID-19 making them unsafe to reoccupy, as the NYC Department of Education (DOE)’s ventilation protocols are not scientifically valid, according to a complaint filed today on behalf of teachers and staff by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Environmental Justice Initiative (EJI). These protocols, and the DOE’s ‘quick fixes’ for schools that do not pass inspections, are NOT protective, but instead create a false sense of security.  The complaint to the New York State Labor Department seeks inspections to determine whether schools are ventilated and filtrated in order to adequately protect teachers, students, and staff from exposure to airborne SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. more

City Council Hears Plenty of Skepticism On NYC School Reopening Plan, by David Cruz, Gothamist, Sept. 3, 2020

New York City should expect to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases once public schools reopen for in-person classes later this month, an infectious disease expert and advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio testified at a City Council hearing on Thursday.

Dr. Irwin Redlener was among the 140 speakers scheduled to testify at the day-long education committee hearing on the city’s school reopening plan. In the absence of testimony from DOE officials, councilmembers heard from skeptics of de Blasio’s school reopening plan, along with the school labor union leaders who convinced the mayor to delay reopening to allow more time to prepare.

Redlener warned councilmembers that students enrolled in schools for in-person learning have a greater chance of contracting the diseasemore

How safe is the air inside your NYC classroom? by Amy Zimmer, Christina Veiga, and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee . Chalkbeat, Aug 25, 2020

Good ventilation could lower the risk of coronavirus. Find out where your school stands.

With just two weeks to go before school buildings are scheduled to reopen, New York City is dispatching teams of engineers to ensure that airflow and filtration in 56,000 classrooms are up to the task of curbing the coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the effort on Tuesday, as teachers and principals continue to raise the alarm about whether the air will be safe, given mounting evidence of the virus’s more potent spread indoors. Of the 10 largest school districts in the country, New York City is the only one planning to reopen classrooms — even as calls mount for a delay and … more

‘An Open Window’s Not Gonna Cut It’: Ventilation Expert Warns Teachers About Classroom COVID Risks, by David Cruz, Gothamist, Sept. 13, 2020

A ventilation expert enlisted by a group of worried NYC school teachers believes the DOE is not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in school buildings when students return on September 21st.

Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist and chemist who assesses workplace safety, held a virtual training session on Tuesday with roughly 100 members of the MORE-UFT caucus, a group that’s been largely opposed the reopening of schools, arguing they’re simply not … more

More details and explanations from Monona Rossol:

VENTILATION IN BUILDINGS, SHORT FACT SHEET, click to see

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the accepted authority for ventilation design in public and residential buildings. Schools follow ASHRAE 62.1, Indoor Air Quality in Buildings as their standard. On April 14, 2020, ASHRAE released a position paper on Ventilation for Control of Infectious Aerosols recommending radical modifications to existing heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) to deal with the airborne transmission of COVID-19. In August of 2020, the two other national organizations who set standards for workplace air quality and ventilation published similar HVAC system modifications.* The experts are in agreement. As a result, our advice is as follows:

VENTILATION FOR THEATERS AND FILM LOCATIONS, click to see

One day there was no COVID-19, and the next day it was everywhere. And the world was not prepared for it in many ways. For example, the virus is primarily transmitted through the air andmarginal ventilation has been common in theaters and locations for decades. Even when the ventilation conforms perfectly to codes and standards, ordinary heating and air-condition (HVAC) ventilation conforms perfectly to codes and standards, ordinary heating and air-condition (HVAC) systems cannot handle infection control without significant adjustments.

VENTILATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, click to see

All over the country, school reopening plans are in the news. Administrators often are defending school’s facilities and ventilation, and teachers are not convinced it is safe to go back. After reading a few of the engineers’ ventilation reports here in New York City, it is clear what is wrong. The schools defend by showing they comply with the state-mandated ventilation standards. They don’t see that these standards are ineffective against COVID-19. This article will explain the terms and their meanings and why the standards aren’t enough to safeguard students, teachers and staff – and those who come into contact with them..

ASHRAE Standards: Not stringent enough to protect against COVID-19:

ASHRAE Offers COVID-19 Building Readiness/Reopening Guidance, press release, May 7, 2020

ATLANTA – The ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has developed guidance on mitigating potential health risks during reopening of buildings closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have reached a time where planning for a safe return to normal activities has become a priority,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE President Darryl K. Boyce, P.Eng. “Safe operation of HVAC and building water management systems are critical components of building readiness and reopening, and ASHRAE’s resources provide a framework for developing plans in a variety of building types.” more

Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Control, AIHA Guidance Document, Version 2, August 28, 2020

Early case reports and epidemiological studies of groups where SARS-CoV-2 has led to outbreaks of COVID-19 indicates that the primary means of disease transmission is the indoor spread of exhaled droplet aerosols.

Armed with this knowledge, industrial hygiene professionals may limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission using the hierarchy of controls. Engineering controls that can keep infectious aerosols at very low levels indoors offer
the greatest promise to protect non-healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations as we reopen our businesses and workplaces.


Relying upon individuals to maintain social distancing, perform perpetual hand washing, and, when available, wear the lowest form of personal protective equipment (PPE) on the market can only achieve so much in preventing the spread of COVID-19. And because infected people transmitting the disease can be asymptomatic or presymptomatic, it is impractical to “eliminate” all sources of infection. With this in mind, the industrial hygiene profession has long recognized that engineered solutions to reduce exposure to hazardous agents offer much greater protection than PPE or administrative controls in most workplace settings. (NIOSH) (See Figure 1)


Many employers and the public incorrectly assume that wearing face coverings or a respirator is the only way to reduce their risk of exposure. Invariably this is not the case—the reality is that wearing a respirator properly every day, all day, is uncomfortable and rarely done properly. Engineering controls have historically proven to be more reliable because they are less prone to human error. …more

White Paper on Ventilation for Industrial Settings during the COVID-19 Pandemic, American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®) Industrial Ventilation Committee
August 2020,

This White Paper, developed by the Industrial Ventilation Committee of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®), originates from concern about the proper use of ventilation controls in industrial workplaces where SARS-CoV-2 (the Coronavirus responsible for COVID-19) is potentially present. This volunteer committee, with expertise in industrial ventilation, offers guidance on the topic of industrial entilation to industrial/commercial facilities that are planning operational controls to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for employees returning to work around the world. These recommended practices are intended as guidance for Occupational and Environmental Healthand Safety professionals and others including plant managers as they seek to mitigate
exposures for their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Included within this paper are COVID-19 exposure control strategies that consider all of the traditional industrial hygiene Hierarchy of Controls. It will provide some practical suggestions about the use of ventilation principles and concepts that can help reduce worker exposure to droplets and aerosols that may contain Coronavirus-19. It will also communicate some simple guidelines and principles that can be used to select and design ventilation controls to limit the spread of Coronavirus disease. This White Paper will NOT opine on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and other ventilation systems that are used in office situations, as they have been addressed by ASHRAE in recent documents (ASHRAE, 2020).

The Astounding Physics of N95 Masks, a youtube clip from minutephysics