With the COVID vaccines here, optimism grows. With new vaccines in the works and the distribution getting fast-tracked, projections of when we might be able to start hanging out again are being cautiously moved forward. Now, the Center for Disease Control says they have enough data to suggest that our kids can go back to in-person classrooms. According to new evidence, the CDC said students going back in the classroom has done little to spread the disease, as long as they maintain all the COVID precautions such as washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks.
Evidence shows that K-12 schools can safely resume in-person instruction in the U.S., as long as steps are taken to continue reducing the spread of COVID-19, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
As students returned to school across the nation — and the globe — for the fall semester “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” of COVID-19, researchers for the CDC wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the report, a study of COVID-19 transmission among people ages 0 to 18 in Mississippi found that attending gatherings and social functions outside one’s home, as well as having visitors inside the home, was associated with increased risk of infection.
However, in-person school attendance was not.
“Accumulating data now suggest a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery,” the researchers said.
That path would include taking steps to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, as well as limiting activities such as indoor sports and other extracurricular activities.
I want to be excited about this. However, reading the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, their US samples are from rural Wisconsin, 11 school districts in North Carolina with 90,000 students and staff and one unspecified part of Mississippi. There are over 730,000 students alone in the single Los Angeles school district. Over 1M in New York’s, so the samples used in the evidence are a concern to me. Plus, the article relies heavily on the communities in which the school reside adhering to strict COVID precautions. Meaning everyone should be wearing masks and social distancing. No one should be gathering in homes or in large numbers unnecessarily. All outside interaction should remain limited. I wish I could rely on my community to do that, but they have yet to prove they can. Our school district, which is right outside LA unified, reopened to a hybrid in-person learning for K-2 for two months, I think, before all students were pulled back home. We just received another email they were going to try that again after Gov Newsom inexplicably reopened the state. Yes, we have seen a small dip in cases, but still have no hospital beds and are rationing resources. EMTs and ICU triage cases based on chances of survival. So all of this sounds like too much of a gamble to me.
The focus of the People article and the JAMA article seems to be the mental health of the students. It’s a valid concern. In CA, we haven’t gotten to Tier 1b on the vaccine process yet, which means out teachers haven’t been vaccinated. I absolutely agree that the current at-home school conditions and resources has put a giant mental strain on students. But based on these articles, there’s too much assumption to feel confident that sending them back to the classrooms will alleviate stress and not just create new ones. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep working towards getting kids back in school. And communities that have shown no growth in new cases and proper guideline adherence should allow kids in classrooms. But I think even if I asked my socially starved children their preference right now, they’d be freaked out given the horror show we’ve been witness to over the last six months.
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