But that study, Apoorva said, did not consider lax enforcement of safety standards in schools – such as not requiring masks.
“The schools were open without precautions,” she said. “They didn’t take all those other factors into account. This fueled a lot of fears that this variant would be more contagious in children and that the protection that children seem to have was not there with the new variant. This did not turn out to be the case.
Where do you get that “half as likely” metric?
While there have been a lot of infections in schools, contact tracing has added complexity to the story. Data from about 20,000 people infected with the new variant – including nearly 3,000 children under the age of 10 – showed that young children were about half as likely as adults to pass the variant on to others.
“The variant East more contagious, but it’s more contagious in all age groups, ”said Apoorva. “If children were half as likely to be infected before, they are also half as likely to be infected now.”
What does this mean for schools?
“We already know how to make schools relatively safe,” Apoorva said.
A mask warrant is a must, she says, as is physical distancing. Good ventilation is important – open windows will circulate air and even an inexpensive air filter can make a big difference. Thorough testing and contact tracing is essential. The new variant will lead to more infections in children unless schools step up their precautions, experts told Apoorva.
“We know these measures work, but only if they are actually implemented,” she said. “It becomes all the more important with this variant because it is so much more contagious.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed the need for mitigation (with masks, separation, ventilation and cleaning), testing and appropriate quarantines. It also prioritized reasonable accommodation between teacher unions and districts, as well as vaccination of adults working in school buildings.