Studies show secondary transmission of COVID-19 in schools 'extremely rare'; KSTP medical expert says it depends on infrastructure, commitment

Jessica Miles
Updated: January 13, 2021 07:36 PM
Created: January 13, 2021 06:08 PM

As school districts look to bring students back to in-person learning during the pandemic, an early version of a study that will appear in the American Academy of Pediatrics is offering insight.

The study looked at 11 school districts in North Carolina with nearly 100,000 students and staff, open for in-person learning for nine weeks, and found secondary transmission of COVID-19 infections in schools to be extremely rare.

"It would be misleading to just interpret the study as saying, oh my goodness, spread doesn't happen within schools, let's open schools. Instead what I think this study shows is that you can decrease spread in schools but only if you put an infrastructure in place, have a commitment in place to decrease the spread," said KSTP Medical Expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou.

She says masks, social distancing and handwashing played a big role in the results. But, there was more.

"They went one step further, they went five steps further, they had the district sign a commitment, they had protocols that people committed to almost like a contract, and they followed that up with an agreement to publicly report cases, to contract trace," she added.

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) says metro school districts had issues with staffing this fall which led to distance learning for many, but greater Minnesota districts were able to keep more students in class with mitigation efforts.

"For the most part they did not see the spread happening between students, when they did learn of cases, they did the contract tracing as they know they should have," said Deb Henton, Executive Director of MASA. 

Districts are watching the new strain of COVID-19 now in Minnesota, but are hopeful.

"We're certainly watching that new variant, but it's important for people to know that school leaders definitely want kids back in school, that's the best place for them to be," Henton said.

Georgiou co-authored a study in the Journal for the American Medical Association looking at rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in children up to age 19 from May to November 2020.

"Children are much less likely to get sick from COVID-19 but are absolutely not immune, and so parents need to be aware of that and make sure they protect their children like they protect themselves," she said.


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