Science-Behind-Safely-Reopening-Schools-Article The Science Behind Safely Reopening Schools

The Science Behind Safely Reopening Schools

​Getting California children back to full in-person instruction is so important for students' academic, emotional, and social development. As the new school year approaches, everything that we have learned from science over the last year has taught us how children can safely return to full in-person instruction. Vaccines have greatly reduced how much COVID-19 is in our communities, and parents, teachers, and older students are all eligible for vaccines.

In addition, schools will use several safety measures on campus that research shows work, such as wearing masks, good ventilation in classrooms, and COVID-19 testing. But first of all, it's important to know that younger children are less likely to get COVID-19 or have serious illness from the coronavirus, and that children can safely return to school on campus.

Children Are Less Likely to Get COVID-19 than Adults

Research from all over the world shows that children get COVID-19 less often than adults. The younger the child, the less doorways the virus has to enter their body. These doorways, called ACE-2 receptors, are how the virus enters the body. With less doorways, it is harder for the virus to infect children, and they get less sick if they do get infected.

When children do get the COVID-19 virus, the most common way they get it is from an adult in their household, and not from other students at school. This has been found in many research studies from many different countries. With vaccines, many adults are protected from COVID-19, so there are fewer cases in adults compared to before. Even with fewer adult cases thanks to vaccines, children still have lower risks of getting the virus compared to unvaccinated adults.

Schools = Less Spread. Community and Social Gathering = More Spread

COVID-19 spreading in schools among students is much less common than COVID-19 spread in the community or from social gatherings indoors, like birthday parties and weddings. Even when COVID-19 rates in the community are high, the rates in schools are consistently lower. The most at-risk people on school campuses are actually adult teachers and staff, which is why it is important for all eligible age groups to get vaccinated to prevent infection and spread.

The Vaccine is the Best Protection

The best protection against COVID-19 is the vaccine. Students and adults who are age 12 or older should get the vaccine. Parents can help protect their children by getting vaccinated, since it reduces their child's risk of exposure to COVID-19 at home.

Masks, Ventilation, Handwashing, Staying Home When Sick

Other safety precautions will reduce children's risk for getting COVID-19 even more. These include teachers and students wearing masks, making sure classrooms and school buildings have good ventilation, handwashing, and staying home when sick. These safety measures protect everyone, especially the youngest children who can't get the vaccine yet.

COVID-19 Testing in Schools is Important

Almost half of all children who do get COVID-19 do not have any symptoms. Regular COVID-19 testing can help identify students and teachers at school who have the virus even if they don't feel sick. COVID-19 testing can stop an outbreak in school before it starts.

New research is being done every day, and we know so much more about COVID-19 in children than we did a year ago. We have learned from examples of what works and what does not work. If we use these safety layers, schools can be safe places for teachers and staff and safe learning environments for children. 

Originally Published on July 15, 2021