Study: closing schools may not be worth the disruption

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Schools around the world have closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but a team of British scientists say keeping students at home has little impact.

Researchers from University College London using COVID-19 modeling studies have concluded that closing schools will reduce deaths by only 2% to 4%, just a fraction of those avoided by other distancing interventions social.

He described the evidence in support of national school closings to fight the pandemic as “very weak.”

Children can be infected with the virus but rarely experience severe symptoms. COVID-19 cases in children made up less than 2% of the 149,760 laboratory-confirmed cases that occurred in the United States between February 12 and April 2, CNN reported.

But children with mild or non-existent symptoms can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to vulnerable adults, which is why governments have sent students and teachers home.

The research, published Monday in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, reviewed 16 studies – some based on the spread of the new coronavirus, and others on the seasonal flu and the 2003 SARS epidemic. The results suggest:

—School closings are useful during influenza outbreaks, but their benefit to the current coronavirus pandemic may be minimal.

“Data from the SARS epidemic in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore indicate that school closings may not have contributed to the fight against the epidemic.

– “Less disruptive social distancing interventions in schools” should be considered, especially if the pandemic restrictions are maintained over a long period.

– Possible intermediate solutions include start-up and finish times for amazing schools, temperature and other student health checks, and keeping schools open to workers in essential jobs.

But Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, who consulted with the British government to develop a pandemic plan, said Lancet research did not take into account the impact that school closings could have in addition to other locking measures.

“While closing schools as a measure alone should have limited effectiveness in controlling the transmission of COVID-19, when combined with intense social distancing, it plays an important role in breaking down remaining contacts between households, and thus guarantee the reduction of transmission, “he added. said Science Media Center.

Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and doctor at Yale University, told ScienceMag last month that proactive school closings were “one of the most powerful non-pharmaceutical interventions we can deploy.”

“Proactive school closings work like reactive school closings, not only because they remove children, small vectors, from circulation,” he said. “It’s not just about protecting children. It protects the whole community. “

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Mike Moffitt is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Mike_at_SFGate

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