2 studies urge schools to reopen despite COVID

Students can return to in-person instruction despite the level of spread in surrounding communities
By: | January 27, 2021
COVID transmission in 11 North Carolina districts that held in-person instruction was far lower than the rate of spread in surrounding communities, the researchers found. (GettyImages/Westend61)COVID transmission in 11 North Carolina districts that held in-person instruction was far lower than the rate of spread in surrounding communities, the researchers found. (GettyImages/Westend61)

District leaders should strongly consider reopening classrooms as COVID transmission within schools remains low, two new studies have found.

If students and teachers continue to wear masks, wash hands and practice distancing, schools can reopen safely despite the level of community spread, say researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During the first nine weeks of the school year, COVID transmission in 11 North Carolina districts that held in-person instruction was far lower than the rate of spread in surrounding communities, the researchers found.

The minimal transmission within schools also “did not cause a larger community infection burden,” the researchers wrote in the study that also noted some of the best practices district leaders adopted.


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To safely reopen schools, communities should consider taking other measures such as restricting in-door dining, the CDC said an article published this week in the JAMA medical journal.

“The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools,” the CDC said.

Administrators should consider limiting athletic programs, which have resulted in higher COVID transmission rates than has classroom instruction, the CDC said.

This week, the CDC also reported on its investigation of a COVID outbreak associated with a high school wrestling tournament that took place in December.


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Though only half the 130 students, coaches and referees who participated were tested for COVID, 38 (30%) contracted the virus.

The CDC also identified secondary transmission—including one death—among the participants’ contacts at school and at home.

“With 2 vaccines now being distributed under Emergency Use Authorizations and more vaccine options anticipated to be available in the coming months, there is much hope on the horizon for a safer environment for schools and school-related athletic activities during the 2021/22 school year,” the CDC concluded.