By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re trying our best to stay away from each other. But as some kids head back into school and activities, they’re gathering on buses and in carpools.

When kids board the bus this year, they will be wearing face masks and sitting at least 6-feet apart.

Kris Ehresmann from the Minnesota Department of Health says there hasn’t been a lot of research on transmission on buses, but riders should consider it like you would an inside space.

“If it’s possible to have windows open, you know, that’s helpful. That won’t be possible in January, but while it’s possible, that’s an important consideration,” Ehresmann said.

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Because that outside air dilutes the virus. It’s the same in a car, which has far less room to spread out.

“If you’re looking at carpooling with other families, you know, we would still recommend trying to socially distance, and so that might be a challenge,” Ehresmann said.

Researchers from Harvard University and Portland State modeled a scenario: Someone is riding in a car with an infected person coughing every few minutes for a little more than an hour. With the windows up, the virus level increases over the hour. But just cracking one window 3 inches, and the level of virus stays low.

“[Drive with the windows down] if you can do that safely,” Ehresmann said.

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She understands that’s not always possible. So, do what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for ride shares: Sit as far apart as you can, wear a mask and make sure the car is not in recirculating air mode.

“There’s no such thing as dropping the risk to zero,” she said.

So like with many things, it comes down to mitigating risk, for cars and school buses.

“Not every child is in a position where their parents can drive them to school,” Ehresmann said. “So we want to make sure that everybody has a chance to get to school safely.”

MDH does recommend disinfecting and cleaning surfaces on the buses after a ride. They also say it’s important to let the bus air out once the ride is over.

Heather Brown