Educators May Be More Central Drivers of Covid-19 in Schools Than Students, CDC Study Finds


The “concerning report,” released Monday, details an investigation into the spread of Covid-19 in at least six public elementary schools in a Georgia district in early winter, when there was a large spread in the community, the principal said.

“The two main reasons for the spread of Covid-19 in these schools were inappropriate physical distancing and adherence to the mask,” Walensky said. “In schools, a physical distance of at least 6 feet was not possible due to the high number of students in the class, as well as due to the layout of the classrooms.”

“The findings also highlight the importance of scaling up vaccination efforts nationwide, including the continued need to prioritize teachers and other school personnel for vaccination as essential front-line workers, in line with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices “. she added.

Walensky did not say that teachers should go to the front of the vaccination line. Instead, schools should work harder to make sure teachers, staff and students wear masks correctly and maintain social distancing as much as possible, he said.
Vaccines are not among the “key” Covid-19 mitigation strategies the CDC sets out for schools. Instead, the agency calls them “additional layers” of Covid-19 prevention.

Teacher meetings likely fueled spread, study finds

The CDC study examined 700 school staff members and 2,600 students who participated in in-school learning at eight public elementary schools in suburban Atlanta from December 1 to January 22. Learning at school resulted in nine clusters of Covid-19 cases involving 13 educators and 32 students in six of the schools.

Should our children go back to school?  Dr. Wen helps you decide

Eight of the nine groups involved at least one educator, and one educator was the first identified coronavirus patient in at least four of the groups. Half of the school-related cases were due to educator-to-student transmission that likely originated when educators first spread the virus to each other, including “during in-person meetings or lunches,” the study found.

“Initial infections among educators played a substantial role in transmission at school and subsequent chains of infection to other educators, students, and households, highlighting the importance of preventing infections among educators in particular,” the study authors wrote.

All nine groups “involved less than ideal physical distancing” and five involved “inappropriate use of masks by students,” according to the study.

The study authors said vaccinating teachers, when the vaccine is available, could be helpful.

Expert: We need to vaccinate our teachers

While teacher vaccinations are important, they are not vital to reopening schools, Walensky told CNN earlier this month.

“I am a strong advocate for teachers to receive their vaccine, but we do not believe it is a prerequisite for schools to reopen,” she said.
President Joe Biden has previously said that he believes teachers should advance the priority of vaccinations, but White House officials have emphasized that they do not believe that teachers need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.
Biden Says Teachers Should Advance Priority To Receive Covid-19 Vaccine

“While we do not believe that all teachers should be vaccinated before a school can open, that does not detract from the fact that we strongly support vaccinating teachers,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a White House conference. briefing last week.

Meanwhile, at least one leading expert continues to emphasize that she believes teachers’ vaccinations are “essential” to pave the way back to school.

“The CDC and the Biden administration must step up now and say that teachers’ vaccinations are essential,” Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at the School of Public Health, told CNN Monday. from the Milken Institute at George Washington University. “If getting our children back to school, in person, is really a priority, we must vaccinate our teachers.”

So far, at least 28 states and Washington, DC, have begun allowing some or all teachers and school personnel to receive Covid-19 vaccines.

Pushing to reopen schools, from New York to Los Angeles

The national conversation about prioritizing teachers to get vaccinated continues to simmer as more local and state leaders announce plans to reopen schools.

In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the country, aims to welcome preschool and elementary students for in-person instruction no later than April 9, said Monday. Superintendent Austin Beutner.

“As difficult as the decision to close school classrooms was, reopening is even more difficult,” Beutner said. “We cannot, and will not, compromise health and safety.”

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That decision was based on the announcement by Los Angeles County health officials last week that Covid-19 case levels were low enough that elementary schools could reopen, the superintendent said. But a union representing more than 30,000 teachers in Los Angeles says schools must remain closed because children and educators will be put at risk without proper health and safety precautions.

“It is unfortunate that educators are under attack, and the pressure to prevent an unsafe return is falling on us as our students and their families face economic devastation, illness and death,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a reported to CNN.

An entire school board resigned after parents were criticized during a virtual public meeting

Los Angeles County health officials have said that beginning March 1, county educators and child care workers will be eligible to receive the vaccine. And last week, Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will reserve 10% of the Covid-19 vaccine doses for use by teachers and child care workers in an effort to help resume in-person instruction.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also lobbied for local governments to work to get schools open “unless there is a community or school that has a peak of infection.”

“Students deserve teaching in class,” he said last week. “Vaccinate the teachers”.

CDC's Covid-19 School Guide Leaves Some Quiet, Others Confused

On Monday, Cuomo said he had asked all local districts to report this week how many teachers have been vaccinated.

“Teachers are very concerned that before they go back to the classroom, they will get vaccinated,” he said. “I think we need clarity on this matter, opening schools is very important, very important for children.”

Meanwhile, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced a back-to-school vaccination plan last week, saying the state was now receiving substantially more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and that, under the plan, counties would receive shipments of additional vaccines specifically intended for K-12 teachers and staff. .

In addition to vaccinations for teachers and staff, the state would provide free rapid test supplies to schools.

“The emphasis on vaccinating K-12 teachers and staff, free testing supplies, along with continued adherence to other mitigation strategies, will allow us to safely lead students to in-person learning,” said the governor.

CNN’s John Bonifield, Jamie Gumbrecht, Alexandra Meeks, Raja Razek, Kristina Sgueglia, Brian Vitagliano, Sarah Moon, Cheri Mossburg, and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.

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