Decisions made today can help ensure safe operation of schools and provide critical services to children and adolescents in the US. Some of these decisions may be difficult. They include a commitment to implement community-based policies that reduce transmission when SARS-CoV-2 incidence is high (eg, by restricting indoor dining at restaurants), and school-based policies to postpone school-related activities that can increase risk of in-school transmission (eg, indoor sports practice or competition).
“It’s not going to be safe to have a pizza party with a group of students,” Margaret Honein, a member of the C.D.C.’s Covid-19 emergency response team and the first author of the article, said told The New York Times. “But outdoor cross-country, where distance can be maintained, might be fine to continue.”
The CDC conclusion was bolstered by new research out of Duke University and the University of North Carolina that suggests schools can return to face-to-face if they mitigate COVID-19 transmission on campuses, despite the level of COVID-19 cases in the community, especially when everyone in the building wears masks, washes hands, and practice physical distancing.
The Duke-UNC study appears in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers studied secondary transmission of COVID-19 in 11 North Carolina districts that held in-person instruction in the first nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year and identified minimal COVID-19 transmission in the schools -- far lower than the rate of community spread.