New Study Finds COVID Transmission in Schools Is 'Extremely Rare'

Schoolchildren wearing masks / Getty Images
January 12, 2021

A new peer-reviewed study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is "extremely rare."

In a collaborative study between Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, researchers discovered that among 11 school districts with nearly 100,000 staff and students, there were no instances of children passing the coronavirus to adults during in-person instruction. Researchers found just 32 cases of either kid-to-kid or adult-to-adult coronavirus transmission over nine weeks.

The study also slammed school policies that ask individuals to self-quarantine if they come within six feet of a person infected with coronavirus for more than 15 minutes, even if both individuals wore masks. The study calls the policy "counter-productive," as transmission of the coronavirus when properly wearing a mask is "uncommon" in school settings. Researchers also said the policy sends a mixed message to the public on the benefit of face coverings.

The study concluded that "schools can stay open safely in communities with widespread community transmission."

This conclusion contradicts claims by teachers' unions that vaccines won't be enough to return to in-person learning. The costs of remote learning, meanwhile, have been high: A study of 4.4 million students found that minority and low-income children are disproportionately harmed by school closures.

Other studies have likewise indicated that schools are not driving COVID-19 infections. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an ABC interview that the default position should be "to keep the children in school or to get them back to school."