SAFE FOR SCHOOL?
A new CDC study makes the argument for keeping children in school for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic (with certain caveats).
Here’s what it says:
New Study: The Basics
- What: 17 schools participated in a study examining in-school transmission of COVID-19 over the course of 13 weeks.
- Where: A rural Wisconsin county.
- When: Late August to late November.
- Who: 4,876 students and 654 staff members. 8 elementary schools (K-6); 9 secondary schools (grades 7-12).
- Public and private school districts, including 1 independent school.
Parameters for Participants
- Each student received 3-5 masks with 2-3 layers (funded by grant money) and wore masks in school; there were district and statewide mask mandates in place at the time.
- Students stayed in cohorts of 11-20 students; if possible, students consistently sat next to the same person.
- Social distancing recommended.
- All classes and lunch held indoors.
If a student tested positive and quarantined, their siblings *also* automatically quarantined (length of quarantine not specified in study).
If a student/staff tested positive, anyone with close contact (sitting within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) automatically quarantined.
- 133 students and 58 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
- 3.7% of cases (7 cases – all students) were tied to in-school transmission.
- No known child-to-staff member transmission.
- Context: Researchers say despite “widespread community transmission” in the county overall, these schools had a 37% lower infection rate than the surrounding community.
“These findings suggest that, with proper mitigation strategies, K–12 schools might be capable of opening for in-person learning with minimal in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
The CDC research team notes mitigation and masking efforts, and acknowledges the study has demographic, regional and technical limitations.
Something to Consider
- An estimated 56+ million Americans are in school K-12.
- About half of American schooling remains virtual (as of the study date).
- Just over half of teachers in this study participated in the weekly surveys (on mask compliance, class attendance), which limits some of the data.
- Researchers did not proactively test students and staff for COVID-19 to identify any asymptomatic cases.
Are kids safer in school? The study stops short of saying definitely, using the word “might” 14 times. Additional limitations to the study: Participants were mostly non-Hispanic white in a rural, middle-to-low income area. Available data showed mask compliance was over 90% regardless of grade; school ventilation systems were not studied.
by Jenna Lee,