CDC: In-Person Classes OK During Pandemic When Precautions Taken
To resume in-person learning, schools should require masks, social distancing and COVID-19 testing, as well as improve their indoor ventilation.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now saying that when schools adopt appropriate COVID-19 mitigation strategies, there is little risk of coronavirus transmission with in-person learning.
The researchers wrote about their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Tuesday, citing a study of 11 North Carolina school districts that were open for in-person classes for nine weeks in the fall of 2020. During that time, in-school transmissions were “very rare” – 32 infections happened at school while 773 infections were community acquired.
The experts also cited another study of Mississippians, age 18 or younger, which found that those who tested positive for COVID-19 were far more likely to have contracted it at a social event than at school.
A key takeaway from the Mississippi study was that school-age children who tested positive for the virus were not more likely to have attended school, where masks are generally mandated by the state, but were more likely to have attended community gatherings like weddings, parties, funerals or playdates, or had visitors in their homes.
However, large transmissions of COVID-19 have happened at schools where mitigation strategies were not taken, such as physical distancing, wearing masks and proper air ventilation measures.
So, it appears as though it is relatively safe for schools to hold in-person classes, as long as everyone on campus wears a facial covering and practices social distancing, and the school conducts testing and improves its indoor ventilation.
However, sports appear to pose a greater risk of coronavirus transmission at schools.
“Numerous media reports of COVID-19 outbreaks among US high school athletic teams suggest that contact during both practices and competition, and at social gatherings associated with team sports, increase risk,” reported JAMA.