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School Reopenings Haven’t Led To COVID-19 Outbreaks Yet, According To Early Evidence

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Dylan Housman Contributor
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The reopening of schools across the country has not led to widespread Covid-19 outbreaks, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

Early numbers show, at least for now, that reopened schools are actually seeing lower infection rates than their surrounding communities, the Post says. Only about 0.08% of students and 0.15% of teachers have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to statistics released Wednesday by researchers at Brown University.

“In colleges, there have been (outbreaks),” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the Post. “We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation.”

Many of the schools that have reopened are in smaller population centers, as most of the larger school districts in America started with fully remote learning. However, this will allow the bigger districts to implement best practices from schools that have already reopened successfully, per WaPo. (RELATED: College President Apologizes For Attending Off-Campus Soccer Game After Telling Students They Can’t Leave Campus)

It is still unclear which policies are most effective at curbing the spread of the disease in schools, as not all schools report statistics the same way, and every district has its own set of reopening guidelines. When surveyed by those Brown researchers, about 7 in 10 schools required teachers and students to wear masks, half limited gatherings to 25 people or less, and about 40% did daily temperature checks and isolated students in one classroom. 

There is also potentially a sample bias due to many schools in COVID-19 hotspots not reopening, the Post reports. Some Florida schools began restricting the reporting of case numbers after early outbreaks, according to WaPo.

“I don’t think that these numbers say all places should open schools with no restrictions or anything that comes close to that. Ultimately, school districts are going to have different attitudes toward risk,” Emily Oster, part of the team behind the Brown research, told the Post.

“It’s reasonable to say that it looks promising at this point,” Sara Johnson, associate professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.