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Epidemiologist Warns Opening Schools Isn’t Safe Yet — Here’s What He Says We Have To Do

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding has been sharing the latest research information on COVID-19, and he’s got bad news on the school front. He says that with the data coming out of current studies, he doesn’t believe it’s safe to re-open schools yet. However, that could change if we can get teachers and staff safely vaccinated.

Epidemiologist on school opening
[Photo by CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

In a series of tweeted threads over the first few days of January 2021, Dr. Feigl-Ding shared information from studies showing that teachers are being infected with COVID-19 at a rate more than three times as high as the rest of the population, that children are more likely than adults to bring the virus into the home (even if the kids themselves don’t show symptoms), and that keeping schools closed, until inoculation goals can be reached, is one of the key strategies to keep the pandemic under some semblance of control.

As the new year began, Feigl-Ding was sharing information about the new B117 variant of the virus. He warned that it’s more contagious, and specifically more contagious in children, citing data released by the Imperial College London and public health and research entities.

This increased communicability, Feigl-Ding says, suggests we should rethink opening schools just yet.

Further citing a report from the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), he’s warning that even though young people might not suffer as much from the virus, they’re more likely to be the ones who bring it into the household.

Among other details, kids between ages 12 and 16 are seven times more likely to be the first COVID-19 case in a household compared to an adult, and kids between 2 and 16 are twice as likely to pass on the virus to others as adults are.

He further cited opinions of Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, a statistical geneticist, and her explanations of a few more important points regarding spread. Dr. Gurdasani explained that the more infectious variant appears to have already become the dominant strain in the UK, and her view that primary schools are not safe, despite some claims to the contrary, because they contribute significantly to the spread of the virus in the community.

As for the adults in the school system, Tes is reporting that rates of COVID-19 among teachers are as high as 3-4 times that of others in the community — suggesting that school re-opening is absolutely endangering our teachers.

Perhaps most importantly, the noted epidemiologist shared information from the journal Nature Human Behavior showing that one of the most effective nonmedical measures to contain the virus and limit the spread is school closure.

He’s not without hope — Dr. Feigl-Ding is encouraging the increased rollout of vaccines, so that teachers and school staff can be inoculated. (A vaccine has not yet been approved for children.) He’s encouraging the nation to make the necessary efforts to get the virus under control — then schools will be able to open safely.



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