Infectious Disease

Educators ‘central’ to COVID-19 transmission in a Georgia college district

February 22, 2021

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Educators were “central” to in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a Georgia school district over a seven-week period, investigators at the MMWR reported.

The incidence of COVID-19 increased nearly 300% in a school district in Cobb County, Georgia, from December 1 to January 22 – from 152 to 577 cases – when 2,600 students and 700 staff attended 24 people in person on eight school days Elementary schools, according to the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Jeremy AW Gold, MD, and colleagues on the Georgia K-12 School’s COVID-19 investigation team.

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According to the report, nine clusters of three or more epidemiologically linked COVID-19 cases were identified in 13 educators and 32 students in six schools.

“All nine transmission clusters were associated with less than ideal physical distancing, and five were associated with inadequate student mask use,” wrote Gold and colleagues.

Two clusters included likely educator-to-educator transmission followed by educator-to-student transmission, resulting in 15 out of 31 school-related cases, they reported.

Among the statements by Gold and colleagues were “several COVID-19 damage control challenges”. They reported that due to a high number of personal students and classroom layouts, students sat less than three feet apart – but with plastic dividers between them. They said that teaching in small groups may have been responsible for transmission between educators and students within seven clusters. In addition, information obtained during the interviews indicated that inadequate mask use by students likely contributed to five clusters, investigators reported.

Of the five clusters in which an index patient was identified, there was one educator in four clusters and one student in one cluster.

“Eight clusters included at least one educator and a likely educator-to-student transfer,” reported Gold and colleagues. “Four clusters included probable student-to-student transmission and three had probable student-to-educator transmission.”

According to the report, 18 household members of people with school-related cases received positive COVID-19 test results after testing on 69 people with suspected cases.

“This report found that initial infections in educators played an essential role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in school and subsequent chains of infection to other educators, students and households, highlighting the importance of preventing infection, especially in educators highlights “, so Gold and colleagues wrote.

The issue of personal schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been hotly debated. Earlier this month, the CDC released guidelines for schools about to open, focusing on strategies to contain the spread. The instructions do not state that teachers need to be vaccinated in order for schools to open.

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Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Amesh A. Adalja

The study shows that students alone are not the main drivers of diffusion within schools. However, when clusters of infection do emerge, it is adults who are more likely to act in this role. While social distancing and masking by students is rightly often emphasized, it is also important that specific guidelines are in place to prevent teacher-to-teacher transmission that can then reach the student body.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Senior Scholar

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety

Disclosure: Adalja does not report any relevant financial information.

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