masked students in classroom

Opening Schools Safe If Hospitalizations Low: Studies

  January 13, 2021

By Dan Hounsell

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges nationwide, the general public remains more interested than ever in the role institutional and commercial facilities play in human health. No facilities have received more scrutiny along the way than K-12 schools as parents worry sending their children back into schools will increase their risk of contracting the coronavirus. New research suggests these worries might be unfounded.

Two new studies have found that opening school buildings doesn’t increase the spread of COVID-19 in places where cases or hospitalizations from the virus are rare, according to Chalkbeat. Reopening schools in areas with higher caseloads, though, does spread the virus, one found, while the other couldn’t rule out that possibility. It remains unclear exactly at what point school reopening becomes more risky.

The papers are the most rigorous efforts yet to understand the link between schools and COVID spread in the United States. It’s research that could guide school officials and health officials grappling with whether to reopen or keep open school buildings. But there aren’t simple answers for places with higher numbers, at a moment when some counties are seeing COVID cases peak.

It appears that when hospitalizations rates are low, it is safe to reopen schools in person, said Douglas Harris, a professor at Tulane University who co-authored one of the studies.

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.


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