U.S. schools operating in-person have experienced low transmission of the Chinese coronavirus, particularly when mitigation strategies such as masking and social distancing are in place, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky stressed on Friday, citing new findings by the health agency.
Under President Joe Biden, the CDC has expressed support for schools to safely reopen with appropriate mitigation efforts in place such as masking and social distancing, consistent with the Trump administration’s position.
Armed with CDC data that shows low transmissibility among students, Dr. Walensky stressed during a press briefing Friday, “CDC continues to recommend that K-12 schools be the last setting to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely,” adding:
Current data from schools, from summer camps and whatnot also suggested that the children not only have decreased rates of symptoms, but have decreased rates of transmissibility.
Accumulating data suggest school settings do not result in rapid spread of COVID-19 [coronavirus disease] when the mitigation measures are followed, including masking, decreasing density, and proper ventilation.
Her comments echoed a study in one of the agency’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) publications, the final version of which came out Friday.
The CDC researchers wrote:
With masking requirements and student cohorting, transmission risk within schools appeared low, suggesting that schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts in place. …Current evidence suggests that transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) schools might not significantly contribute to COVID-19 spread nationwide.
Some of the study’s findings are consistent with warnings from the former CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield.
Suspending in-person instructions at school may yield many hardships among students and disproportionally impact low socioeconomic status families, the study warned.
In late July 2020, Dr. Redfield cautioned lawmakers that failing to reopen schools K-12 could be detrimental and even deadly for students’ development and health.
Employing community-based mitigation strategies to stem the spread of the Chinese virus in particular places with high incidence rates of the highly contagious and deadly disease is also essential to supporting the schools’ safe reopening, she added.
Walensky acknowledged that some schools lack the sufficient capacity to do what is necessary to keep transmission rates low.
She noted that the Biden administration must ensure the federal government provides those communities with the guidance, tools, and resources they need.
CDC researchers also penned an article published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
After reviewing data from studies in the United States and abroad that also found a low transmissibility rate spread in schools, the three CDC researchers wrote:
The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring. There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission
Margaret Honein, the lead author of the JAMA article, added:
The conclusion here is with proper prevention efforts … we can keep [the] transmission in schools and educational settings quite low. We didn’t know that at the beginning of the year, but the data has really accumulated.
Citing one of the recent CDC’s recent findings, the Washington Post noted, “Some indoor athletics have led to infections and should be curtailed if schools want to operate safely.”
“The CDC researchers said they were particularly concerned about indoor sports and other extracurricular activities that do not allow for distancing and mask use,” the Post added.