Schools are not the main source of COVID-19 spread and do not cause a spike in cases, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health in Berlin looked the results of Covid tests across dozens of classrooms across between February 2021 and March 2021.
They found that just two students and one teacher tested positive, even as the Alpha variant that originated in the UK was gaining dominance in Germany.
The team says the findings show that clusters of COVID-19 infections are not common in schools and that cases in classrooms are often isolated instances.
The new study adds to the growing body of research that classrooms are not linked to frequent outbreaks and that students and teachers don’t test positive more frequently than those in the general population.
A new study looked at nearly 1,000 students, teachers and household contacts across 24 classrooms in Berlin, Germany, in March 2021. Pictured: Students attend school in Berlin, August 2021
A study found that six cases of COVID-19 were detected, of which two were among students, one among teachers and three among household members (above). The students and teacher who contracted the virus all attended different schools
For the study, published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, the team looked at 24 school classes – 12 primary and 12 secondary – across Berlin.
Of the 898 participants, 263 were students and 112 were teachers. The remaining 523 were household members of either pupils or staff.
In Germany, after COVID-19 cases began rising in mid-February, the country imposed a lockdown and schools shut down.
In March 2021, schools opened again for in-person instruction, but many adopted a split class-model, with half of the original class size in attendance on alternating weeks.
Researchers looked at COVID-19 cases both during lockdown and two to three weeks after classes resumed.
Few Covid cases were detected in schools even as daily infections spiked in Germany (above), which researchers say suggest there is a low level of infection at schools
During lockdown, the team found that just one symptomatic adult household member tested positive for the virus.
No students or teachers who were swabbed were confirmed to have the virus during this time.
Four weeks later, in March 2021, pupils returned to schools but with mitigation measures in place including three feet between desks, increased ventilation and frequent mask wearing.
Of the participants tested, there were six confirmed infections: two students, one teacher and three household members.
What’s more, the students and teacher who fell ill with COVID-19 attended different schools.
New data from the LA County Department of Public Health found a total of 7,995 students out of 1.5 million, or 0.5%, and 1,193 staff out of 157,000, or 0.7%, have tested positive for COVID-19, which officials say is evidence that Covid transmission is low in schools
The researchers say these cases were detected even as the Alpha variant was rapidly spreading across Germany, showing that schools are relatively safe even during surges.
‘In early 2021, we detected only isolated SARS-CoV-2 infections, no clusters, and one school attendee with an infection,’ the authors wrote.
‘This low level of infection at schools confirms our previous data…. Our data support that school closures should be the last resort in controlling the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
The study comes on the heels of a recent report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH), which found COVID-19 outbreaks in schools are not common with few students and teachers testing positive – and a very small number of close contacts contracting the virus.
Data published online found that, between August 15 and September 13, a total of 7,995 students and 1,193 staff tested positive for COVID-19.
With more than 1.5 million students in county schools and 175,000 staff, this means 0.5 percent of children and 0.7 percent workers have contracted the virus since schools reopened.
Additionally, a very small percentage of children have tested positive after coming into contact with infected individuals.
According to the LADPH, more than 30,000 students and staff were forced to quarantine for seven days after being in contact with a patient.
However, just 63 of them went on to test positive themselves, equivalent to 0.2 percent.
Health officials from the LADPH say COVID-19 protocols followed by the schools are likely cause for the low numbers, including indoor masking and universal testing by the Los Angeles Unified School District.