Peter Wells in New York
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has found there is limited spread of coronavirus in schools, particularly when pandemic health and safety protocols are followed, but educators should consider curbing certain sports programmes to limit outbreaks that could jeopardise a school’s safe operation.
School-related cases of coronavirus have been reported as many institutions in some parts of the US reopened for in-person learning, “but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” scientists at the CDC said in a report released on Tuesday.
Overseas, a study by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control came to a similar conclusion, that schools were not associated with accelerating community transmission. Where there have been large outbreaks in schools, they have been associated with a lack of physical distancing, exemptions from mask use and poor ventilation.
To avoid such problems, the report recommended that mitigation measures in schools “must continue”. These include universal face mask use, increasing physical distancing, using hybrid attendance models, increasing room ventilation and boosting testing.
The researchers said that numerous media reports of coronavirus outbreaks among US high school athletic teams suggested contact stemming from indoor practice, competition or associated social gatherings increased the risk of the virus’s spread. The authors noted some schools, paradoxically, use fully online teaching but continue in-person sporting programmes. Some states have already halted or postponed school sporting programmes.
Sporting programmes can be highly valued by students, parents and schools, but conducting these activities or gatherings, particularly of the indoor variety, “with limited adherence to physical distancing and other mitigation strategies could jeopardise the safe operation of in-person education” the authors of the report said.
The report’s authors said that some difficult decisions may need to be taken to ensure the safe operation of schools at the ongoing provision of critical services to children, which may include “school-based policies to postpone school-related activities that can increase the risk on in-school transmission.”
The report includes a standard disclaimer its findings and conclusions are not necessarily the official position of the CDC.