Authors: Jay K. Varma, MD, Jeff Thamkittikasem, MPA, Katherine Whittemore, MPH, Mariana Alexander, MSc, Daniel H. Stephens, MD, Kayla Arslanian, JD, Jackie Bray, MPH, Theodore G. Long, MD
Published in: American Academy of Pediatrics
Background: The 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic led many jurisdictions to close in- person school instruction.
Methods: We collected data about COVID-19 cases associated with New York City public schools from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing performed in each school on a sample of asymptomatic students and staff and from routine reporting . We compared prevalence from testing done in schools to community prevalence estimates from statistical models. We compared cumulative incidence for school-associated cases to all cases reported to the city. School-based contacts were monitored to estimate the secondary attack rate and possible direction of transmission.
Results: To assess prevalence, we analyzed data from 234,132 persons tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection in 1,594 New York City public schools during October 9–December 18, 2020; 986 (0.4%) tested positive. COVID-19 prevalence in schools was similar to or less than estimates of prevalence in the community for all weeks. To assess cumulative incidence, we analyzed data for 2,231 COVID-19 cases that occurred in students and staff compared with the 86,576 persons in New York City diagnosed during the same period; the overall incidence was lower for persons in public schools compared with the general community. Of 36,423 school-based close contacts, 191 (0.5%) subsequently tested positive for COVID-19; the likely index case was an adult for 78.0% of secondary cases.
Conclusions: We found that in-person learning in New York City public schools was not associated with increased prevalence or incidence overall of COVID-19 infection compared with the general community.