CDC: Teachers Drove COVID-19 Infections at Georgia Elementary Schools
The CDC’s findings are consistent with those from investigations done in other countries, which found that the most common type of transmission event was from teacher to teacher.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that when school teachers don’t wear face masks and maintain appropriate social distancing during in-person school activities, such as when they eat their lunches or attend faculty meetings, COVID-19 spreads more rapidly on campus.
The CDC investigated nine coronavirus outbreaks at six elementary schools in Cobb County, Georgia, that occurred between December 1, 2020 and January 22, 2021. During that period, the rate of COVID-19 infections increased by nearly 300%, from 152 to 577 cases.
The study found that when teachers neglect to wear face masks and maintain appropriate physical distancing, the coronavirus spreads more rapidly:
“An educator was the index patient in four clusters, a student was the index patient in one cluster, and in four clusters, whether the index patient was the student, the educator, or both (i.e., two index cases occurred) could not be determined. Eight clusters involved at least one educator and probable educator-to-student transmission. Four clusters involved probable student-to-student transmission, and three involved probable student-to-educator transmission. Two clusters involved probable educator-to-educator transmission during in-person meetings or lunches, which was followed by educator-to-student transmission in the classroom and resulted in 15 of 31 (48%) school-associated cases. Sixty-nine household members of persons with school-associated cases were tested, and 18 (26%) received positive results.”
The findings by this investigation are consistent with findings from other investigations done Europe.
“A large prospective study of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools in the United Kingdom found that the most common type of transmission event was from educator to educator; in another large prospective study of transmission in German schools, in-school transmission rates were three times higher when the index case occurred in an educator than when the index case occurred in a student,” the CDC reported.
The report also found that if all students had worn their masks or had worn them properly and socially distanced (at least six feet between desks), classroom spread of the virus could have been reduced. (The size of the classrooms and large number of students prevented them from being properly distanced.) Additionally, students ate lunch in their classrooms, which possibly contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.
The findings seem to support the position that schools can reopen safely if the proper precautions are taken, including the wearing of face masks, maintaining physical distancing, improved ventilation, hand washing, testing of students, contact tracing and the cleaning of facilities and surfaces.
Additionally, the findings support the need to prioritize teacher vaccinations.