Study: COVID transmission rare in North Carolina schools

Posted January 11, 2021 11:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2021 8:52 a.m. EST

A new study shows a very low rate of in-school coronavirus transmission.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University studied 11 North Carolina districts and found only 32 cases of in-school spread and zero cases of child-to-staff transmission.

Wake County Public School System plans to move forward with second semester plans, which means all grade-levels will receive some in-person instruction. There is some hesitation about being back in class with cases on the rise, but based on the study from researchers in the Triangle, transmission of the virus is rare as long as safety measures are in place.

"The study published in [The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics] is one of the first large studies to look at the impact of returning to school and COVID-19 transmission," explained Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuck, an assistant professor at UNC School of Medicine.

Researchers studied more than 100,000 students and staff in the 11 participating school districts over a nine-week period from Aug. 15 to Oct. 23. They found just 32 cases of in-school transmission of COVID, with 11 cases occurring in elementary schools, and zero cases of a child infecting an adult.

Dr. Mieses Malchuk said the study demonstrates "how effective social distance, wearing masks and washing hands are in the terms of lowering the spread of COVID-19."

"If you've got kids going to school and they get COVID and bring it home...they can transmit it inside the house pretty easily," explained Dr. Rachel Roper, an immunologist at East Carolina University.

Roper said while the study is important, it comes with limitations.

"There were problems because they couldn't test everyone," she explained. "They are claiming how much transmission there is but if you can't test everyone, you can't know how much you've got."

Health experts advised to take the study with a grain of salt -- they want to see more like it.

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