Douglas N. Harris, Engy Ziedan, Susan Hassig, – REACH, Tulane University |
The study specifically focused on COVID-19-related hospitalizations, which directly measure the health outcomes of greatest interest and are not subject to the numerous measurement problems that arise with virus positivity rates and contact tracing.
They also addressed selection bias in school reopening decisions by using panel analysis of weekly school reopening and COVID-19 hospitalization data for almost every county in the nation.The-Effects-of-School-Reopenings-on-COVID-19-Hospitalizations-REACH-January-2021
For counties whose pre-opening total new COVID-19 hospitalization rates were below roughly 36-44 per 100,000 population per week (roughly the 75th percentile of counties during the summer), they found no effect of in-person school reopening on COVID-19 hospitalization rates.
For counties where total baseline new hospitalizations are above the 36-44 new hospitalizations per 100,000 per week, the estimates were inconsistent across methods and are therefore inconclusive.
Where Is It Safe To Reopen Schools? New Research Offers Answers
Cory Turner, NPR |
The study also comes with a few important caveats. The data analysis was conducted before a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus had been documented in the U.S. Also, the researchers note that most schools that currently offer in-person education are also offering a remote option, which means many schools that have technically reopened are still operating with far fewer students in their buildings than before the pandemic. That makes it easier for educators to keep students socially distanced in smaller classes and to enforce mask-wearing.
REACH researchers worried that testing in the U.S., especially among children, is still too varied and unpredictable. Instead, Susan Hassig, a Tulane epidemiologist who worked on the study, says they focused on hospitalization rates as a more reliable indicator of virus spread.