Schools start “silent lunch” to prevent COVID transmission

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Some schools in our area are starting to implement a policy called “silent lunch,” requiring that students not talk during the mealtime.

Scientists say the policy is crucial to preventing COVID-19 transmission, but some parents say it goes too far.

Jennifer Morgan says her 11-year-old son hasn’t been himself this summer without being able to socialize with his friends.

“He got quiet and shy, and it just wasn’t him,” the North Providence mom said.

That’s why Morgan says she believes socialization is an important part of getting kids back to school, including during lunch.

“The kids are there to learn, yes, but they’re there to make friends and make time to go by at lunch,” she said.

Morgan is opposed to the “silent lunch” policy at some area schools.

“It’s hard enough for them to understand this and live through all this, so they need to have as much normalcy as possible. And not being able to talk to your pal while you’re eating a sandwich is pretty ridiculous to me.”

But Dr. Erin Bromage, a biology professor at U-Mass Dartmouth, says the maskless indoor talking that would happen during a normal school lunch could increase droplets and aerosols as much as 75-fold.

“Two children sitting there unmasked, turning and talking to each other during their lunch presents a risk that is probably not something we want to incorporate into our school day,” he said.

Bromage says what should be incorporated is outdoor mask breaks for socialization.

“I would rather trade off five or 10 minutes of quiet lunch time to make it safe for everybody that’s in that classroom, and then let them have 25 minutes running outside in the playground, where they can be kids,” he said.

Barrington schools are among those following Bromage’s recommendation to implement the silent lunch policy, but with outdoor breaks.

Categories: Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News, Regional News, Rhode Island