Discussion: Reopening schools and workplaces amid the coronavirus

The World
Updated on
A young boy is shown wearing a red mask and holding a pencil while sitting on a mat next to a tree outside for school.

Children attend a sidewalk class for underprivileged children taught in Delhi, India. Most schools in India remain shut since late March when the country imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Sept. 3, 2020.

Manish Swarup/AP

Political pressure grew Monday for European governments to tackle the rising number of coronavirus cases without resorting to a spring-style lockdown that would hit the continent's struggling economies and disrupt planning for school districts and the reopening of offices.

Data released by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control showed five countries in the region with more than 120 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days. Spain was ranked top of the grim table and Britain’s top medical advisers warned the public Monday they must make further sacrifices to control the second wave.

The growing number of cases in Europe and elsewhere around the world have many governments struggling to develop plans for the fall school semester and any return to office buildings.

The US is approaching the milestone of 200,000 pandemic deaths. Meanwhile, at the nation's largest school district in New York City, only some students returned on Monday after the coronavirus forced students and staff home.

Related discussion: How the coronavirus affects already fragile communities

With fall underway, millions of students and teachers in the US are adjusting to the new normal of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. For college students, living on campus has also brought new challenges.

School communities are divided by questions of how safe is “safe enough,” and administrators are struggling to balance the benefits of in-person instruction with the risks of the coronavirus — as state and federal guidance changes rapidly.

At the same time, many American workers continue to face uncertainty and concerns about returning to their physical workplaces — or remaining in them.

As part of our regular series of conversations on the pandemic, The World's global health reporter Elana Gordon moderated a discussion with Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

This conversation is presented jointly with The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.