Texas School Buses May Continue Requiring Masks
published on April 14, 2021 by Sonia Mastros
Texas recently made headlines for stepping down its COVID-19 mask requirements. Businesses around the lone star state are no longer mandated to enforce mask-wearing on their premises - but they are still allowed to voluntarily require masks, if they choose.
There was some brief confusion over how this change in policy would affect Texas school districts and school bus safety. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) quickly clarified that the situation for districts is effectively unchanged. Local districts can still mandate mask-wearing on buses and within school facilities as they see fit.
This is important because the chances of disease spread will continue to be a higher threat on school buses compared to many other buildings and facilities. Districts in Texas - and everywhere else - should absolutely continue to require masks for riders and staff.
Why School Buses Are Prime Vectors for COVID-19 Spread
Based on research, there are two primary ways that COVID-19 spreads. Most typically, it is transmitted between two people via airborne transmission. An infected person breathes out air and microparticles of moisture that are full of the virus, and a nearby person breathes them in. This is estimated to account for around 80-90% of COVID-19 infections.
However, COVID-19 can also survive on surfaces for several hours, allowing it to transmit via touch as well. It does particularly well on plastic surfaces, as well as other porous materials.
This is why buses are a perfect environment for COVID-19 to breed. Having riders in close proximity within a closed vehicle makes it easy for airborne virus loads to spread. Also, buses are full of surfaces that can be touched, some out of the way, and difficult to clean, so sterilization is also difficult.
All this adds up to a need for continued vigilance in school bus safety, doing whatever possible to reduce the chance of COVID-19 spread.
Wearing Masks on School Buses Should Be a Must
There's no getting around it: Anyone who can wear a mask on a school bus absolutely should be required to wear them. Even with social distancing, it's simply too easy for diseases to spread among passengers. Both students and staff should always have masks on unless they have a genuine medical condition or disability that prevents mask usage.
In addition, buses should be running with their windows down whenever possible. This will increase noise within the bus, as well as reducing fuel efficiency, but the rapid airflow will help push contaminated particles out of the bus. The wind will also make it more difficult for them to settle on surfaces.
Sanitation is also important, of course, but these two basic measures will do a lot to increase school bus safety during the outbreak.
How is your district handling mask-wearing policies? Do you have creative tips for improving compliance? Please share your tips in the comments!