Murray Head Start Installs Air Disinfection Devices to Protect Against COVID-19 and Other Illnesses | New



MURRAY – With COVID-19 and the Delta variant firmly now all but one of Kentucky’s counties in the red zone for community spread, local educators are doing what they can to protect the children in their care. Since children under the age of 2 cannot wear face masks, the need for protection in this age group is even more urgent.

With that in mind, Murray Head Start recently installed around 25 air disinfection devices in its classrooms and offices, with plans to expand beyond that in the future. Murray Head Start is a federally funded program overseen by the Murray Independent School District. Locally, it is run from Alexander Hall on the Murray State University campus, but since its launch in 1965, the program has expanded to provide preschool services in the Jackson Purchase area, eight counties, in partnership with 11 school districts, according to MISD. website.

Brad Cleaver, vice president of sales for MEDformance, said the company had worked with several area school districts to install the devices.

“We are a national distributor of WellAir, a leader in clean air technology, and we are doing everything we can to place these devices in schools so that we can help administrators and program directors try to add a another layer of protection. to keep children and staff healthy and try to keep them in school for in-person learning, ”Cleaver said. “This is a patented technology that is used in healthcare and long-term care facilities, as well as other commercial establishments. It uses a coil technology called NanoStrike, which is not filter technology. It is separate and unique (compared to devices that filter air).

“The best physical analogy to describe it is that it’s very similar to love at first sight. When air circulates over one of the coils, it deactivates pathogens and microorganisms (in the air). It not only eliminates airborne diseases and viruses, but also pathogens that can lead to asthma and allergies, which apart from a pandemic are one of the main reasons for absenteeism. So it’s not just about fighting COVID-19; it’s about creating a healthier environment and (being part of) a multi-level approach with principals and educators to mitigate as much risk as possible so that you can keep children and staff at home. school.

Cleaver added that he has three children who attend schools in Calloway County, so improving the health of children in the area means a lot to him, not only as a representative of his employer, but also as a parent.

Murray Head Start director Cindy Graves said the installation of the devices was planned in three phases, with the third phase yet to come. They were set up in offices several months ago and then placed in Early Head Start classrooms in five of the eight counties covered by the program. In the next phase, the devices will be installed in the Head Start preschool classes.

“We have a health services component in our program, so we are constantly addressing those health needs,” Graves said. “Thanks to the pandemic, we were able to secure additional funds to make choices about the long-term benefits of our program. We have looked at a number of products for air purification. A lot of our classrooms and offices are in older buildings so the air systems are a bit older… so we wanted to find something that would improve the air quality in the classrooms and the offices.

“We did a lot of research and communication on various systems and selected the Novaerus system (a WellAir brand), which we found to be the best investment to promote air quality. We took a phased approach to the process, and Phase 1 was sort of our initial testing phase, so we put it in some of the offices in the older buildings to test if we saw a difference. In phase 2, we have just (recently) installed the devices in all of our Early Head Start classrooms – which welcome children from birth to 3 years old – in five counties served by our program. Our goal is to improve health, reduce illness and reduce absenteeism for children and staff.

Graves said the devices had so far been installed in around 15 classrooms and around 10 offices, with an eye now on Phase 3. She said it was costing less than $ 35,000 to place the devices. in Early Head Start classrooms in Calloway, Graves, Fulton, Hickman and McCracken counties. She said additional funding had been made available to the program due to the pandemic.

“We have worked very hard to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars who support federal programs and try to invest in something that is going to be sustainable, long term, easy to maintain and provide those benefits over a period of time. time, not just as a quick and immediate response to the COVID situation, ”Graves said.

Graves said the investment was worth it because it represents a larger expense over time to deal with more frequent staff illnesses, and when children have to miss school due to illness, it has an impact. negative about their learning. She noted that in addition to COVID-19, children spread several types of airborne illnesses, and since younger children are not expected to wear masks and no young child can be vaccinated, the purification of the air benefits everyone. She explained that although children aged 2 and older are currently required to wear masks at Head Start facilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that children under the age of 2 wear masks.

Whitney Pile, RN and health services coordinator at Murray Head Start, said the facilities experienced a later flu season in the summer and quite a few RSVs (respiratory syncytial virus), which is common among young children. She said that since August 1, around 30 to 40 quarantines have been needed among children and staff due to COVID-19. She said the difference since the air purifiers were installed had been noticeable.

“Phase 1 was to try these devices out in staff offices to see the (effects) before and after,” Pile said. “Before, when they showed up to work, they said they would have allergic type symptoms with watery eyes, some experienced dermatological symptoms due to potential exposure in our old buildings. So we installed the air purification devices in our offices, and within two to three weeks of arriving at the offices, staff were no longer reporting symptoms. Another thing was that the staff also said that their offices, after long weekends when there was no one in the building, smelled cleaner. They did not have a musty smell from people who were not in the buildings.

Ryan Marchetti, director of professional development and public relations for Calloway County Schools, said the district has also implemented air purification methods in its buildings.

“The quality of the air in our schools is an important factor when it comes to the health of students,” Marchetti said. “Calloway County schools are using bipolar ionization in each of our schools to improve air quality. Bipolar ionization has been added to our existing HVAC systems and is part of our HVAC renovation projects at East Elementary and Calloway County Preschool.


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