TOPLINE Evidence is growing that reopening schools with proper precautions will not increase the spread of Covid-19, with the Centers for Disease Control concluding Tuesday that in-person learning is not causing significant outbreaks—but the agency warned indoor athletics may derail efforts for safe in-person schooling.
The CDC evaluated 17 schools in rural Wisconsin from August and November, and found only seven students (3.7%)—no staff—contracted the virus from school.
Those schools were able to limit Covid-19 by wearing masks, separating students into groups of 11-20, social distancing and having established quarantine measures when a student did become infected, the study says.
Another study released by the CDC Tuesday found that an indoor wrestling tournament in Florida caused 30% of attendees to become infected, leading the researchers to note that indoor athletics lacking proper social distancing and other safety measures “could jeopardize” school Covid-19 safety precautions.
Several recent studies, both in the U.S. and abroad, have reached similar conclusions, including a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics finding in-school transmission was “extremely limited” during the first nine weeks of in-person instruction in North Carolina.
“As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” the CDC researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The school reopening debate has gripped districts across the country for the entirety of the pandemic. For the fall 2020 term, 24% of school public districts were fully online, while 51% were using a hybrid model and 17% were fully open for in-person instruction, according to data firm MCH. Though large school districts and local officials, recognizing the harms of distance learning on students, are starting to push for full in-person instruction, they are at times at odds with teachers unions, who argue that districts aren’t taking strong enough measures to protect teachers.
There was a large outbreak linked to school reopenings in Israel last spring. But the CDC researchers say the outbreak was tied to crowded classrooms, exemption from face mask use and “continuous air conditioning that recycled interior air in closed rooms during a heat wave.”
By Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff