A new report released Wednesday by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that COVID-19 transmission risk is low in school and that risk is even lower for younger children.
After studying trends to see how the novel coronavirus spread among young people ages 0-24 years old across the U.S. from March to December, researchers found that there is a lower risk for transmission among younger kids that's associated with reopening child care centers and elementary schools. In contrast, transmission among 18-24 year olds was higher than other age groups.
Data from K-12 schools that have reopened either fully or partially with hybrid learning show that the difference in coronavirus cases among those schools and virtual schools was minimal, according to the report. As of Dec. 6, there are 401.2 cases per 100,000 people in counties with in-person learning. In counties with only remote-learning, the number was 418.2 per 100,000.
With middle and high school students in New York City still waiting to return to school buildings, the report can be read either for or against their return because there's still much to learn about the virus. What the report has added is the understanding that transmission trends among children and adolescents age 0-17 paralleled transmission trends among adults. What's also known is that children have experienced fewer severe COVID-19 outcomes than adults, especially those over 75.
Testing frequency, differing data from school districts, underlying conditions of those tested are among limitations that researchers faced while looking at these data. The report also didn't account for cases from teachers and other school workers.
"Schools provide a structured environment that can support adherence to critical mitigation measures to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19," the report said. But schools aren't completely safe; if community transmission is high, cases in schools should also be expected.
"And as with any group setting, schools can contribute to COVID-19 transmission, especially when mitigation measures, such as universal and proper masking, are not implemented or followed," the report continued.