As you know from our update on Sunday, we have been facing some challenges regarding locally reported air quality. As many of you will note, this is a new experience for us in this region and was reported broadly in the local press as we were returning from our recent extended break. We received, in addition to the news reports, the following from the US Embassy Medical Unit on Monday:
We’re tracking the poor air quality currently, and some of our respiratory (ex. Asthma) patients have felt the impact. In looking at the data over the weekend, we noted an average AQI (Air Quality Index) of 172, with a maximum single reading of 261. In general, this means that many persons will feel the impact. AQI of 151 to 200 is considered unhealthy. Our health advisory and STATE MED guidance at AQI 172 states:
People with heart or lung disease (including asthma), older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion; everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
As well, we recommend limiting outdoor exposure as much as reasonably possible. To put some context, at levels greater than 200, we recommend avoidance of all physical activity outdoors, and we recommend masks for all personnel working outdoors. Per Embassy Beijing guidance, MGT typically sends out health advisory to the broad community when AQI levels exceed 300 for longer than 24 hours.
We have assessed the conditions each day and made decisions each morning regarding limiting school activities and we currently are still following local school recommendations for restricting outdoor exposure and exertion levels during indoor activities, including both PE and after school activities.
To be clear, the concerns relative to air quality are equally prevalent both indoors and outside the building. While it is impossible to judge air quality visibly, the regular testing provided by government agencies provides us with the information we use to make prudent decisions. Current government readings this morning report that we are still in the moderate to severe range on the primary scales. Therefore, we kept students inside again today. However, we have seen some relief this afternoon that indicates we could be going back outside tomorrow (Thursday). Current PMI reading is 133 at 4:23 p.m.
The limitations are primarily around monitoring and discouraging exertion, the main way by which air quality impacts health of both children and adults. Teachers and coaches are aware of this and are modifying their plans daily to accommodate conditions and protect students from potential physical distress.
We are following all relevant sources to monitor air quality. One mobile phone application worth considering is entitled “AirVisual“. We will be using it to monitor conditions along with our other local resources.
More information about air quality can be found here: http://aqicn.org/faq/
We are currently tracking conditions that will have us in the moderate range for tomorrow. If this is accurate, we will allow outside play, but provide some alternatives for students who may be at risk for breathing conditions (sensitive groups). Our current estimated threshold for limiting outside exposure and exertion will stand at any readings greater than 150 or in order to align with local school decisions. We make our decisions after checking available information each morning and alert teachers and staff via overhead announcement and email.
If you have any questions regarding these decisions, please feel free to contact us. As always, we value the health and safety of the children in our charge and our ongoing partnership with parents in this regard.