Teachers drive COVID-19 transmission more than students, CDC study finds
February 22, 2021 at 18:17
A new study finds that teachers may be more important drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools than students.
The paper released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies nine COVID-19 transmission clusters in elementary schools in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta in December and January, that included one cluster where 16 teachers, students and relatives of students at home were infected.
In only one of the nine clusters was a student clearly the first documented case, while a teacher was the first documented case in four clusters.
Of the nine clusters, eight involved probable teacher-to-student transmission.
Two clusters saw teachers infect each other during in-person meetings or lunches, with a teacher then infecting other students.
In some American districts, schools have had to go all-virtual because so many teachers have been exposed to the virus.
The 8,700-student Marietta district, like all but a handful in Georgia, has been offering in-person classes since the fall.
All the Marietta clusters also involved "less than ideal physical distancing," with students often less than 3 feet apart, although plastic dividers were placed on desks.
"Physical distancing of greater than 6 feet was not possible because of the high number of in-person students and classroom layouts," the authors wrote.
US CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL APPROACHES 500,000In seven cases, transmission may have taken place during small-group instruction sessions where teachers were close to students.
Although the authors said they observed students wearing masks, interviews found that "inadequate mask use" by students could have contributed to the spread of infection in five clusters.
"We told teachers that all teacher collaboration should occur virtually," Rivera said.