CDC study: Teachers key to COVID-19 infections in 1 district


ATLANTA (AP) – New study finds teachers may be more important drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools than students.

The document released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies nine clusters of COVID-19 transmission in elementary schools in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta in December and January, which included a group that included 16 teachers, students and parents of students at home. infected.

In only one of the nine groups, a student was clearly the first documented case, while a teacher was the first documented case in four groups. In four others, the first case was not clear. Eight of the nine clusters involved probable teacher-to-student transmission. Two groups saw teachers infecting each other at meetings or in-person lunches, with a teacher then infecting other students.

“Educators were at the heart of the transmission networks at school,” the authors wrote.

The findings are consistent with studies in the UK which found that teacher-to-teacher was the most common type of school transmission in that country, and a German study which found school transmission rates to be three. times higher when the first documented case was a teacher. .

Other research has suggested that there is low transmission of the virus and that schools should reopen, a message that President Joe Biden’s administration has pushed in recent weeks to mixed success. Marietta, like all but a handful of districts in Georgia, has been offering in-person classes since the fall.

All of the Marietta groups also involved “less than ideal physical distance,” with students often less than 3 feet apart, although plastic dividers were placed on desks.

“A physical distance of more than 6 feet was not possible due to the high number of students in person and the layout of the classrooms,” the authors wrote.

In seven cases, transmission may have occurred during small group instructional sessions where teachers were close to students. Although the authors said they observed students wearing masks, interviews found that “improper use of the mask” by students may have contributed to the spread of infection in five groups.

The CDC has again indicated that schools must pursue “multifaceted” strategies to prevent the spread of the virus, including reducing the number of teacher meetings, ensuring masks are worn correctly and increasing physical distance, especially during meals when people can’t wear masks. The authors wrote that Marietta has already made changes, including reducing in-person contact between teachers. The district superintendent was not immediately available for comment.

The study also said that in addition to these strategies, it might be desirable to vaccinate teachers to protect educators, reduce transmission in school, and get schools to operate in person, although the CDC has reaffirmed that the vaccination of teachers is “ not a requirement for the reopening. schools. ”

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