Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers on Tuesday said that there is "reassuring" evidence about a lack of widespread coronavirus transmission in schools, amid sometimes-intense debate over reopening.
The researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that there have been some reported cases of the virus in schools, but they have not been major drivers of transmission.
"As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission," the CDC researchers wrote.
The article points to data from 90,000 students and staff in 11 North Carolina school districts open for in-person learning for nine weeks. There were just 32 infections acquired in school during that time, with no cases of students transmitting the virus to staff, the researchers noted.
"The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools," the article states.
It is still important for schools to take precautions, such as everyone wearing masks, distancing, improving ventilation in the room, and testing, the article states.
When some of those precautions were not followed, there was a significant school outbreak reported in Israel.
The CDC experts also warned that school sports pose a greater risk.
The positive evidence on school safety comes as school closures for in-person learning have hit many families hard, and taken a toll on students' mental health and education.
The politics of the issue can be complicated, though, with some teachers unions resisting the return to in-person learning. The Chicago Teachers Union, for example, voted in opposition to a move by the school administration to return to the in-person classroom.
The researchers also note schools will be aided by lower levels of transmission in the surrounding area, which can be achieved through measures like "restricting indoor dining at restaurants." Some local leaders have taken flak for having schools closed while indoor dining has remained open.