Educators ‘central’ to COVID-19 transmission in one Georgia school district
Educators were “central” to in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in one Georgia school district during a recent 7-week period, investigators reported in MMWR.
The incidence of COVID-19 increased by nearly 300% — from 152 to 577 cases — in a school district in Cobb County, Georgia, from Dec. 1 through Jan. 22, when 2,600 students and 700 staff members participated in 24 in-person school days at eight elementary schools, according to CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer Jeremy A.W. Gold, MD, and colleagues from the Georgia K-12 School COVID-19 Investigation Team.
According to the report, there were nine clusters of three or more epidemiologically linked COVID-19 cases identified in 13 educators and 32 students at six of the schools.
“All nine transmission clusters involved less than ideal physical distancing, and five involved inadequate mask use by students,” Gold and colleagues wrote.
Two clusters involved probable educator-to-educator transmission, which was then followed by educator-to-student transmission and resulted in 15 of 31 school-associated cases, they reported.
Among what Gold and colleagues said were “several COVID-19 mitigation challenges,” they reported that students sat less than 3 feet apart — albeit with plastic dividers between them — because of a high number of in-person students and classroom layouts. They said small group instruction may have been responsible for transmission among educators and students within seven clusters. Moreover, information obtained during interviews indicated that inadequate mask use by students likely contributed to five clusters, the investigators reported.
Of the five clusters in which an index patient was determined, it was an educator in four clusters and a student in one cluster.
“Eight clusters involved at least one educator and probable educator-to-student transmission,” Gold and colleagues reported. “Four clusters involved probable student-to-student transmission, and three involved probable student-to-educator transmission.”
Eighteen household members of those with school-associated cases received positive COVID-19 test results following tests administered to 69 individuals with suspected cases, according to the report.
“This report found that initial infections among educators played a substantial role in in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission and subsequent chains of infection to other educators, students, and households, highlighting the importance of preventing infections among educators in particular,” Gold and colleagues wrote.
The issue of in-person schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been hotly debated. Earlier this month, the CDC published guidelines for schools that wish to open, focusing on strategies to mitigate spread. The guidance does not say that teachers need to be vaccinated for schools to open.