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From: ScienceDaily (1:317/3)
To: All
Date: Fri, 19.03.21 22:30
COVID-19 transmission rare in schools wi
COVID-19 transmission rare in schools with masking, distancing, contact
tracing, study finds
Safe, in-person learning focus of CDC collaboration

March 19, 2021
Washington University School of Medicine
Wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing have
kept in- school COVID-19 transmission low, according to results
of a pilot study in Missouri aimed at identifying ways to keep
elementary and secondary schools open and safe during the pandemic.

In-school COVID-19 transmission is rare -- even among close school
contacts of those who test positive for the virus -- when schools heed
public health precautions such as mandatory masking, social distancing
and frequent hand- washing, according to results of a pilot study in
Missouri aimed at identifying ways to keep elementary and secondary
schools open and safe during the pandemic. A close contact is anyone who
has been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period with
someone infected with COVID-19.

The study is part of a larger, ongoing collaboration involving the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Missouri Department of Health and
Senior Services, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education, Saint Louis University, the Springfield-Greene and St. Louis
County health departments, and school districts in the St. Louis and
Springfield, Mo., areas.

The findings are published March 19 in the CDC's journal, Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report. The Missouri school findings mirror those of
schools in other states, demonstrating that COVID-19 prevention efforts
can significantly curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among students, teachers
and staff.

"This work is imperative because keeping kids in school provides not
only educational enrichment but also social, psychological and emotional
health benefits, particularly for students who rely on school-based
services for nutritional, physical and mental health support," said
senior author Johanna S.

Salzer, DVM, PhD, a veterinary medical officer with the CDC's National
Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

The pilot study involved 57 schools in the Pattonville School District
in St.

Louis County and the Springfield Public School District in Greene County
in southwest Missouri, as well as two private schools in St. Louis
County. All schools in the pilot study required students, teachers,
staff and visitors to wear masks while on campus or buses.

Other safety measures included a focus on hand hygiene, deep cleaning of
facilities, physical distancing in classrooms, daily symptom screenings
for COVID-19, installing physical barriers between teachers and students,
offering virtual learning options, and increasing ventilation.

For two weeks in December, the schools involved in the pilot project
notified the research team of students, teachers and staff who were
either infected with COVID-19 or quarantined due to being considered a
close contact of someone who had tested positive. In St. Louis, close
contacts of students or teachers who had tested positive were placed
in quarantine, meaning they were not to leave their homes for 14 days
from when last exposed to a positive case. In Springfield, however,
some of the close contacts of those who had tested positive were placed
in modified quarantine -- meaning they could stay in school if they and
the infected person were wearing masks when in close contact; in this
scenario, the infected person still isolated at home.

Participants in the pilot study included 193 persons across 22 of the
57 schools -- 37 who tested positive for COVID-19 and 156 of their
close contacts.

Among participants who were COVID-19 positive, 24 (65%) were students,
and 13 (35%) were teachers or staff members. Of the close contacts, 137
(88%) were students, and 19 (12%) were teachers or staff members.

Among the 102 close contacts who agreed to testing for COVID-19 using
saliva tests, only two people received positive test results indicating
probable school-based SARS-CoV-2 secondary transmission. Further, no
outbreaks were identified in participating schools despite the high rates
of community spread in December, even among the Springfield schools that
followed modified quarantine protocols allowing some close contacts of
positive individuals to remain in school.

"Schools can operate safely during a pandemic when prevention strategies
are followed," said one of the study's leading researchers, Jason Newland,
MD, a Washington University professor of pediatrics, who treats patients
at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Newland led the pilot program with
the CDC and has advised multiple school districts in Missouri on plans
for reopening schools. "The pilot study demonstrates low transmission in
schools and no student-to-teacher transmission -- and this was during the
height of the pandemic in December, with high rates of community spread."
Added Randall Williams, MD, director of the Missouri Department of Health
and Senior Services: "Schools with proper prevention strategies remain a
safe environment for students and teachers during the pandemic." Since
mid-January, the CDC, Washington University and Saint Louis University
researchers, and the St. Louis County and Springfield-Greene County health
departments, along with three school districts from St. Louis County,
and three school districts in Greene County have been participating in
a larger study to further examine the COVID-19 prevention strategies
and quarantine policies. The St. Louis County school districts involved
are Rockwood, Pattonville and University City; the Greene County school
districts involved are Springfield, Republic and Logan-Rogersville.

In addition, the researchers are going into classrooms to measure the
distances between desks to evaluate whether the 6-foot social distancing
rule can be relaxed in school settings. They're also sending surveys
to parents, teachers and staff to assess the stress and mental health
challenges surrounding quarantine. In Springfield, the researchers are
continuing to study modified quarantine policies.

"We are pleased to continue to work on this joint project with the
CDC, Washington University, and the Springfield-Greene County Health
Department," said Jean Grabeel, director of health services for
Springfield Public Schools.

"The initial results helped verify that our mitigation strategies have
been successful in the school setting. This continued work will help to
further guide the full-time return of students to in-person learning,
five days a week, in a safe manner. We deeply appreciate this unique
opportunity to collaborate on such a meaningful, impactful project."
Added Mark T. Miles, PhD, superintendent of the Rockwood School
District, the largest school system in St. Louis County and one of
the largest in the state, with 22,268 students: "I am grateful for
Rockwood's opportunity to participate in this collaboration. We all
share the same priority: keeping schools safe for students, teachers
and staff as well as the community at large." Dawson P, Worrell MC,
Orscheln RC, Williams RW, Newland JG, Salzer JS et al and the COVID-19
Surge Laboratory Group. Pilot investigation of SARS-CoV- 2 secondary
transmission in Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools implementing
mitigation strategies -- St. Louis County and City of Springfield,
Missouri, December 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. March 19, 2021.

Story Source: Materials provided by
Washington_University_School_of_Medicine. Original written by Kristina
Sauerwein. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
1. Patrick Dawson, Mary Claire Worrell, Sara Malone, Sarah C. Tinker,
Stephanie Fritz, Brett Maricque, Sadaf Junaidi, Gemille Purnell,
Albert M. Lai, Julie A. Neidich, Justin S. Lee, Rachel C. Orscheln,
Rachel Charney, Terri Rebmann, Jon Mooney, Nancy Yoon, Machelle
Petit, Spring Schmidt, Jean Grabeel, Lee Ann Neill, Lisa C. Barrios,
Snigdha Vallabhaneni, Randall W. Williams, Clay Goddard, Jason
G. Newland, John C. Neatherlin, Johanna S. Salzer, Suxiang Tong,
Ying Tao, Brian Emery, Jing Zhang, Min-hsin Chen, Gimin Kim, Bettina
Bankamp. Pilot Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 Secondary Transmission
in Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Schools Implementing Mitigation
Strategies -- St. Louis County and City of Springfield, Missouri,
December 2020. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2021;
70 (12) DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7012e4

Link to news story:

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