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Minimal in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission with strict mitigation protocols at two independent schools in Nashville, TN

By Lauren S Peetluk, Peter F. Rebeiro, Kathryn M. Edwards, Ritu Banerjee, Simon A Mallal, David M. Aronoff, Loren Lipworth, Sophie E Katz

Posted 10 Nov 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.09.21266140

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted school operations. To better understand the role of schools in COVID-19 transmission, we evaluated infections at two independent schools in Nashville, TN during the 2020-2021 school year. METHODS: The cumulative incidence of COVID-19 within each school, age group, and exposure setting were estimated and compared to local incidence. Primary attack rates were estimated among students quarantined for in-school close contact. RESULTS: Among 1401 students who attended school during the study period, 98 cases of COVID-19 were reported, corresponding to cumulative incidence of 7.0% (95% confidence interval (CI): 5.7-8.5). Most cases were linked to household (58%) or community (31%) transmission, with few linked to in-school transmission (11%). Overall, 619 students were quarantined, corresponding to >5000 person-days of missed school, among whom only 5 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during quarantine (primary attack rate: 0.8%, 95% CI: 0.3, 1.9). Weekly case rates at school were not correlated with community transmission. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that transmission of COVID-19 in schools is minimal when strict mitigation measures are used, even during periods of extensive community transmission. Strict quarantine of contacts may lead to unnecessary missed school days with minimal benefit to in-school transmission.

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