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In an article published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), three scientists from the CDC report little evidence of meaningful COVID spread from schools, according to data from K-12 schools that opened in the fall.
As part of the case study, the scientists took a look at children ages 0-18 in Mississippi and “found that having attended gatherings and social functions outside the home as well as having had visitors in the home was associated with increased risk of infection; however, in-person school attendance during the 14 days prior to diagnosis was not.”
The scientists also took a look at data from 11 North Carolina school districts, which included over 90,000 students and staff, over a nine-week period. Thirty-two infections were acquired in the schools, while 773 were acquired in the community. There were ZERO cases of student-to-staff transmission.
Researchers also point to a CDC report from Wisconsin that took a look at K-12 schools that included a total of 4,876 students and 654 staff members. In that report, there were 191 COVID cases amongst students and staff. Of those 191 cases, just seven of those came via in-school transmission.
“All recommended mitigation measures in schools must continue: requiring universal face mask use, increasing physical distance … increasing room air ventilation, and expanding screening testing to rapidly identify and isolate asymptomatic infected individuals,” according to the report.
While schools haven’t shown meaningful spread, the CDC still says school activities can cause the spread. Athletics remains an area of concern. At a December wrestling event with 130 participants analyzed by scientists, 30 participants tested positive, though less than half of the participants were tested. Of those 30 who tested positive, “at least 446 contacts of these cases have been identified: 62 household contacts and 384 school athletic, classroom, and other contacts.”
The scientists conclude that when COVID transmission is high, difficult decisions will need to be made, including postponing school-related activities and restricting indoor dining.
As of Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union still stands by its claim that it’s unsafe to return to in-school learning. Meanwhile, in Nashville, schools remain closed to in-person learning as the district continues to claim it’s unsafe to return to classrooms.