yes, it’s probably ok to keep schools open: more evidence on transmission within college campuses

One of my pandemic policy positions is that it’s probably ok for schools and colleges to open. The reasoning is fairly straightforward: young people are at low risk for harm a COVID infection, losing out on school can have serious long term consequences, sustained closures of schools can financially wreck them, outbreaks are rarely connected to schools in contact tracing studies, and we can implement policies to protect the elderly (e.g., support older faculty for remote learning or providing extra help for students to learn remotely if they live with elderly family members). If you want some mainstream support for this view, the NY Times ran an editorial supporting position and Dr. Fauci issued some language that also supported this position

However, there is one empirical issue that is, until now, unresolved. What if people attend school or college and have high infection rates and then bring it to the community? Well, researchers at my own university’s medical school have provided some strong evidence that this is likely not the case. Medical school professors at IU’s medical school compared contraction rates among students who attended class in person and those who attended class remotely. Infection rate data from mandatory random sample testing of students and faculty. The finding:

“What we found is that, actually, the more in-person credit hours a student had, the less likely they were to test positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Lana Dbeibo, assistant professor of clinical medicine and medical director of infection prevention at the IU School of Medicine, and a key member of the IU Medical Response Team. “This analysis gives us even more confidence that the safety measures IU put in place in order to resume in-person instruction — in addition to the diligence of our students, faculty and staff following public health guidance throughout the semester — have been effective.” 

I should note that IU was pretty strict about banning large gatherings and enforcing mask use on campus. They also insisted people stay home if you showed any symptoms such as fever. But still, it shows that with sensible precautionary measures, you can have a school be open and minimize transmission. 

This isn’t the final straw in the debate over whether social institutions can be open during COVID, but it is very telling evidence and it is consistent with a lot of earlier work on where people tend to contract COVID, which is mainly not at school. In my mind, I think this supports the view that we should “protect the elderly, but release the young.”

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Written by fabiorojas

December 8, 2020 at 5:19 pm

Posted in uncategorized

One Response

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  1. No. No. No.
    Yet again, you show how little you know about covid. But did that stop you? Not for a second. For example, Fauci has supported opening schools for elementary and potentially middle school aged. He hasn’t supported it for college or high school.



    December 9, 2020 at 2:32 am

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