CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Schools across the U.S. are busy this summer taking steps to keep kids safe this fall, from spreading desks 6ft apart to announcing kids will eat lunch in their classrooms. But around the world, reports show schools in at least 22 European countries have reopened and today there’s reassuring news from infectious disease doctors.
“As schools open up were getting a little bit more comfortable that transmission won’t be large enough to warrant schools to shut down,” said Dr. Amina Ahmed, a pediatric infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Atrium Health Levine Children’s.
Dr. Ahmed said when the pandemic first hit, schools all around the world shut down, preventing doctors from studying the virus’s transmission among kids, but now as schools reopen in some countries, she says data is starting to trickle out.
“The reality is the younger the child, the more touching, so there will be transmission among kids…may not be detectable, may be very sub-clinical, we’re calling it paucisymptomatic, meaning having very few symptoms, as opposed to being asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and so I think transmission will occur among kids, but it’s not going to have an impact,” she said.
Among the new studies are reports that transmission rates from child-to-child or from child-to-adult are low and doctors now say it’s teachers and other school staff who could potentially spread the virus to the students.
“And what I’ve been telling schools is it’s even more important to deal with your faculty, don’t let them eat together with masks off because that’s going to trickle down to the kids,” she said.
Dr. Ahmed said studies show an infected student isn’t likely to infect the whole school, and said data shows they may not even infect others in their class. She says the data implies school districts can instead close a classroom, instead of shutting down an entire school or school district.
“As schools open up, we’re going to have even more testing, right, because once they get a fever they’re going to be pulled out, tested because we have to do the contract tracing,” she said.
As for schools reopening this fall, South Carolina’s AccelerateEd task force already gave school districts the guidelines on how to do so.
In North Carolina, Governor Cooper is expected to make an announcement next week.