So far, countries that reopened schools after reducing infection levels — and imposed requirements like physical distancing and limits on class sizes — have not seen a surge in coronavirus cases.
Norway and Denmark are good examples. Both reopened their schools in April, a month or so after they were closed, but they initially opened them only for younger children, keeping high schools shut until later. They strengthened sanitizing procedures, and have kept class size limited, children in small groups at recess and space between desks. Neither country has seen a significant increase in cases.
There have not yet been rigorous scientific studies on the potential for school-based spread, but a smattering of case reports, most of them not yet peer-reviewed, bolster the notion that it is not inevitably a high risk.
One snapshot comes from a study in Ireland of six infected people (two high school students, an elementary student and three adults) who spent time in schools before they were closed in March. The researchers analyzed 1,155 contacts of the six patients to see if any had been found to have confirmed coronavirus infection. The contacts included participants in school activities that could be fertile ground for transmission, like music lessons on woodwind instruments, choir practice and sports. None of the students appeared to have infected any other people, the authors reported, adding that the only documented transmission of the virus was to two adults who were in contact with one of the infected adults outside of school.
But there have been school-based outbreaks in countries with higher community infection levels and countries that apparently eased safety guidelines too soon. In Israel, the virus infected more than 200 students and staff after schools reopened in early May and lifted limits on class size a few weeks later, according to a report by University of Washington researchers.
Read the entire story at New York Times, and related stories/interviews here:
- Why Is There No Consensus About Reopening Schools? – New York Times Magazine (July 29, 2020)
- Some Countries Reopened Schools. What Did They Learn About Kids and Covid? – Wired (July 27, 2020)
- What the science says about reopening schools: Experts call for nuanced approach, based on data – GeekWire (July 23, 2020)
- Can Schools Open Safely During A Pandemic? Looking Abroad For Answers – NPR On Point (July 22, 2020)
- Other countries opened schools, so why shouldn’t Texas? Outbreak severity, health experts say – Houston Chronicle (July 22, 2020)
- Schools in other countries have opened during the pandemic, are there any lessons we can learn from overseas? – WCCO-TV CBS affiliate (July 16, 2020)
- The key lesson from school openings abroad: Contain the virus – Vox (July 15, 2020)
- School reopenings: what can the US learn from other countries' experiences? – The Guardian (July 14, 2020)