*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert.
A new study in The Journal of School Health joins a growing body of evidence that, with appropriate measures, there are ways for schools to safely reopen.
In this study, scientists analyzed data from two large, independent k-12 schools that re-opened for in-person learning last fall. The results suggest that, with robust universal testing and mitigation measures, in-school transmission can remain low even as the surrounding community transmission rates rise.
The two schools in this study, one located in the southeastern United States and the other in the Mid-Atlantic, both conducted regular testing of all students and staff and required mitigation measures like mask-wearing, social distancing, and ventilation and air filtering. When positive cases were detected, the schools and local health authorities did contact tracing to determine how the person was likely exposed.
Throughout the semester, both schools saw cases, but the rate of transmission was 0.5 or lower. “Because each infection causes less than one additional infection on average, an infection doesn’t spread much within the school,” says Santa Fe Institute Professor Michael Lachmann, who co-authored the study. “If we could get a rate of 0.5 in the community, that would be amazing — we would be rid of COVID already.”
In addition, neither school observed any instance where a teacher was infected by a student or vice versa.
No outbreaks at either school occurred from in-school transmission when mitigation measures were being followed. However, testing revealed a spike in cases at the start of the school year and following fall break — times when the students were out of school — and one school had an outbreak following an out-of-school football party.