The key to opening schools safely? High quality infection control. Translating the latest evidence into clear recommendations, our multidisciplinary group of experts delivers guidance on how schools and districts can reduce in-school COVID-19 risks for both children and adults to near zero.
The case for schools being open, particularly in K-8 systems of education, rests on two key questions: whether schools drive transmission in the community and whether high community transmission rates lead to large spread of the virus within schools. The latest data has failed to find any compelling evidence that in-person schooling leads to meaningful increases in infections in the community. There is also a lack of evidence suggesting spread within schools, especially in schools with strong mitigation measures. And not for a lack of trying: studies focused on examining the spread of the virus within schools have consistently found little compelling evidence. While K-8 schools have shown the most success, high schools, too, have in fact done well with robust infection controls in place.
Guidance from a multi-disciplinary group of experts at Harvard University, Brown University, Boston University, Tufts University, and New America now provides a framework for schools and districts to focus on infection control, and to achieve building safety, even in the context of high community spread (the current reality in most communities across the U.S.). The report, “Schools and the Path to Zero: Strategies for Pandemic Resilience in the Face of High Community Spread” follows previous guidance on building pandemic resilient schools by the same group, published in July. The prior guidance had recommended using community spread metrics as a key factor in assessing mitigation measures and school openings or closures. Now, community spread metrics serve as important pieces of information, but the recommendation is that schools focus on rates of in-school transmission and metrics for the quality of infection control.
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