Approbation and Admonition
I am sure we are all obliged to Dr. Bishop and her leadership team for keeping the health and safety of students, staff, and families front and center when addressing critical action impacting the entire community (and, in point of fact, the entire state).
That is in no small part why it is really so easy to request, under the Alaska Public Records Act, the documentation (as detailed below in the incorporate request) regarding building safety with respect to airborne viral contagion, that Dr. Bishop and her team have already undoubtedly compiled, as well the additional documentation demonstrating that the recent decision is not arbitrary and capricious, nor a response to political pressure.
As most everyone in the community is now aware, simple distancing of six feet in outside and open spaces might offer minimal protection from infection by droplet, but distancing to address primary spray becomes just one of many concerns when one considers appropriate prevention and mitigation for interior spaces where aerosols 1 may be appear, as Alexandra Feathers has noted. We know (as does the President 2 ) that SARSCoV2 is a potentially deadly airborne virus. 3 Ventilation is now a critical concern for all the U.S. as made very clear by Elizabeth Gardner’s piece in the USNews. Nor are such concerns, when the topic of current NAS (National Academies of Science) workshops, simply to be ignored as hysteria or panicked overreaction of the lay person.
Dr Bishop has repeatedly suggested that Covid case counts are dropping. The truth is, as anyone who can read the State’s Covid Dashboard knows, that case counts continue to indicate high risk levels, and we continue to see major spikes. And yet ASD would have 4000+ adults, 40,000+ children, and everyone indirectly threatened by contact with them, agree that risk in ancient school buildings is an order of magnitude less than in retail establishments, bars, or elsewhere. Yes, employing the “DeVoss Directives” 4 risk matrix forced on CDC by the “Misrepresenter-in-Chief” (see fn2) requires a Covid count almost ten times that employed by the State and Municipality to adjust appropriate public behavior!
The green line in the image above (taken from the Alaska DHHS Covid Dashboard) represents the Municipality of Anchorage high risk level case count which poses risks of “widespread community transmission with many undetected cases and frequent discrete outbreaks.” Risk levels have been “high” for months.
It is obvious, even to those most resistant to STEM and modern epidemiology, that ALL occupied areas of the school must be at least fully ventilated to meet Code requirements at the time it was built or major remodel/upgrade. This means that closets turned into offices, and rooms partitioned without mechanical review, and the like, undoubtedly do not pass muster. Changes in operations and maintenance as well as management and funding for O&M impact existing systems, and typically render adequacy of mechanical and HVAC systems dubious at best. Systems must be evaluated during normal occupied hours of operations under expected use conditions for any assessment to even approach adequacy. And all that data must be SHARED.
Unfortunately, it appears that most ASD staff are doubtful 5 about building safety under the “new” plan (which eschews relatively objective standards adopted by the State), and have sincere doubts that ASD can safeguard anyone’s health and safety at present. These concerns are, naturally enough, bolstered by the intimate knowledge staff have of the myriad building maintenance issues they already confront, and the lack of any comprehensive offering by the District that ASD leadership is, in fact, addressing those very real problems. 6 Increasing reports that ASD Administrators are alreadying bullying teachers into 3’ instead of 6’ separation and otherwise trying to push staff into potentially inappropriate conduct does not in any way reduce those concerns.
The fact of the matter is that ASD has a long history of viewing Alaska State statutory and/or regulatory mandates as largely “advisory”.7 As a result, even in the best of times, no one really believes ASD is fully in compliance with all the pertinent legal mandates. But this is not the best of times; this is a time when we comply with a variety of State and Local mandates issued to protect the public from a dangerous virus during a pandemic which is killing tens of thousands of Americans.
In sum, the community may wish it could put its faith in Dr. Bishop, but that is simply impossible where her actions run contrary to accepted science, appear to be responsive to national political manipulation, and are supported merely by unfounded aspiration, especially where ASD can offer little but hollow promises.8 No changes should be made to the initial plan (which, in as much as it was approved by the Board, implicitly had at least some community support) until ALL the considerations involved have been fully vetted and publicly discussed, a process that could not possibly be completed in the timeline adopted by Bishop. To that end, for the purposes of promoting effective and comprehensive public review and discussion of the documents which would arguably direct such policy, I am requesting, and as noted above, hope the Board joins in that request, the documents discussed below.
Public Records Request
In order to assure the Administration the greatest opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy and adequacy of the current HVAC/mechanical systems in the district, which covers buildings that should have been torn down decades ago, to buildings recently constructed I am hereby requesting that ASD make available for public inspection and copying the materials identified below.
In as much as it is often the practice of institutions to overestimate the cost of production so as to chill requests and obstruction distribution of information to the public, I am also hereby requesting that The Board direct the Superintendent to publish the requested data on the ASD website such that the entire community can review same and come to their own conclusions as to whether to place their health and welfare, their very lives, in the hands of Dr. Bishop.
A. Please produce for each and every facility of the district:
Most recent TAB (Testing, Adjusting, and Balance) reports for the ventilation systems, including air handling units (AHUs), fans, distribution and classroom GRDs (grills, registers, and diffusers); total air supplied to each room and percent of outside air for each AHU for current and winter operations.
Inventory or accounting of the AHU filtration currently being used for each AHU, if not noted in the TAB report.
All complaints regarding problems with any ventilation system and full details of actions taken in response (turning it off, replacing, ignoring complaints, etc.) for the past five years.
All records evidencing compliance with IMC ventilation requirements for the last five years (or when last verified if over five years).
Documentation of BAS (building automation system), week long trend of the ventilation status & operating conditions.
B. Please produce all documents purporting to offer an analysis of Covid transmission that recognizes that three foot distancing, as recently stated by ASD and pushed by unit administrators, is adequate for safety of all building occupants, including cites to any research and evaluation thereof relied upon.
C. Please produce all documents that address an analysis of whether the new declared plan will comply with current MOA EOs and State mandates.
D. Please produce all documents evaluating the need for or efficacy of Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) units to afford protection to staff.
E. Please produce all correspondence with anyone the District views as a health expert with a medical credential concerning the criteria, safety, and efficacy of the proposed plan.
F. Please produce the data and ASD’s analysis thereof which shows that the case rate in Anchorage is dropping.
G. Please produce ASD’s analysis regarding replacing objective criteria with subjective criteria for opening schools as to whether use of subjective criteria promotes abuse, discounts science, and creates an unstable environment.
H. Please produce all internal correspondence discussing when and if the Board should be consulted regarding this radical change from a plan the Board approved.
Marc Grober, Esq.
5610 Radcliff Dr.
Anchorage, AK 99504
CDC. “Communities, Schools, Workplaces, & Events.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 30, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/indicators.html.
———. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Transmission.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 21, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html.
“COVID-19: Alert Levels.” Accessed September 21, 2020. http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/alertlevels.aspx.
Elfrink, Tim, Ben Guarino, and Chris Mooney. “CDC Reverses Itself and Says Guidelines It Posted on Coronavirus Airborne Transmission Were Wrong.” Washington Post. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/09/21/cdc-covid-aerosols-airborne-guidelines/.
International Code Council. “International Mechanical Code,” 2012. https://codes.iccsafe.org/content/IMC2012/chapter-4-ventilation.
Kapust, Patrick J. “Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/updated-interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19,” n.d., 35. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
Peccia, Jordan. “Aerosols vs. Droplets: In Transmitting COVID-19, There’s a Big Difference.” Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://seas.yale.edu/news-events/news/aerosols-vs-droplets-transmitting-covid-19-there-s-big-difference.
US News & World Report. “Is Your School’s Air Quality a Risk Factor for COVID-19?” Accessed September 21, 2020. https://health.usnews.com/hospital-heroes/articles/is-your-schools-air-quality-a-risk-factor-for-covid-19.
National Academies of Science. “Airborne Transmission of SARS CoV 2 A Virtual Workshop | National Academies.” Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/08-26-2020/airborne-transmission-of-sars-cov-2-a-virtual-workshop.
STAT. “Why Isn’t Ventilation Part of the Conversation on Reopening Schools?,” August 5, 2020. https://www.statnews.com/2020/08/05/ventilation-part-of-school-reopening-conversation/.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Season 6 Episode 1: 9/14/20 (Bob Woodward, Luke Combs). Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/98tyVseV_QkxxEW_j_N4YJTf9GBIsfZi/the-late-show-9-14-20-bob-woodward-luke-combs-/.
Woodward, Bob. Rage, 2020.
The President has admitted as much. See, Woodward and The Late Show.
The Secretary of Education has waged a continuous assault on expert medical opinion on health and safety in schools, and has been regularly supported in this endeavor by the President, who has been engaged in political manipulation of CDC to that effect, apparently because he believes using the Administration to misrepresent the facts is appropriate.
Pertinent OSHA and IMC requirements are identified in the Bibliography. Complaints regarding violations of ventilation standards have been filed with ASD in the past.
Indeed, ASD recently violated State law in failing to timely respond to an earlier public records request, and compounded its misconduct by misrepresenting the mandates of State regulation regarding teacher qualifications while also attempting to obfuscate with respect to the underlying concerns (whether ASD teachers are teaching within the areas of their expertise).
Much of ASD’s Plan amounts to reactive procedures, procedures which, because of the well documented delays in obtaining adequate data, will be of little value in protecting those not infected from contracting the virus.