A new study found that coronavirus transmission in schools is rare if the school administration abides by all the Covid-19 protocols, even among proximity with those who are Covid-19 positive.
The mandatory measures include face masking, social distancing, and frequent handwashing.
The study was carried out to identify methods to keep elementary and secondary schools open and safe during the pandemic. Close contact is anyone who has been within six feet for more than 15 minutes in 24 hours with someone infected with Covid-19.
"This work is imperative because keeping kids in school provides not only educational enrichment but also social, psychological, and emotional health benefits, particularly for students who rely on school-based services for nutritional, physical, and mental health support," said senior author Johanna S. Salzer, DVM, Ph.D., a veterinary medical officer with the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
For the study, the researchers involved 193 persons across 22 of the 57 schools located in and around Missouri. All schools in the pilot study required students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear masks while on the school campus or buses.
Other safety measures included daily symptom screenings for Covid-19, installing physical barriers between teachers and students, offering virtual learning options, and increasing ventilation.
For two weeks in December, the schools notified the research team of students, teachers, and staff who were either Covid-19 positive or quarantined due to being considered a close contact of someone who had tested positive.
The study revealed that 37 tested positive for Covid-19 and 156 of their close contacts after the experiment. Among participants who were Covid-19 positive, 24 (65 per cent) were students, and 13 (35 per cent) were teachers or staff members. Of the close contacts, 137 (88 per cent) were students, and 19 (12 per cent) were teachers or staff members.
Notably, no outbreaks were identified in participating schools despite the high community spread rate in December 2020.
Added Randall Williams, MD, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: "Schools with proper prevention strategies remain a safe environment for students and teachers during the pandemic."
The study is part of a larger, ongoing collaboration involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, among others.
The study was published in the CDC's journal -- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.