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School Reopenings Not Driving Large COVID Case Numbers

One of the most contentious issues in the recent North Carolina state superintendent race was whether or not to allow schools to reopen across the state. North Carolinians seemingly voiced their preference for reopening schools when they elected Republican candidate Catherine Truitt. In his research brief this week, Dr. Terry Stoops examined more evidence in support of a potential reopening. Dr. Stoops writes:

Last week, officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) delivered their monthly COVID-19 update to the State Board of Education. The presentation (available here) included the usual catalog of data related to coronavirus metrics, including positive tests, cases, hospitalizations, and clusters.

Its most important contribution, however, was a statement by Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer, who reported that the state is “not seeing schools as a big driver of cases.” 

North Carolina is not alone in these findings. Dr. Stoops writes:

But is North Carolina’s experience unique? Hardly. According to an October 29 article in Nature,

“Data gathered worldwide are increasingly suggesting that schools are not hot spots for coronavirus infections. Despite fears, COVID-19 infections did not surge when schools and day-care centres reopened after pandemic lockdowns eased. And when outbreaks do occur, they mostly result in only a small number of people becoming ill.”

North Carolina does seem to be moving in the direction of reopening. Dr. Stoops writes:

The last four months have been a whirlwind for public school students and staff. On July 14, Cooper announced that public schools would have the choice of reopening under Plan B (stringent health and safety protocols with moderate social distancing), Plan C (remote learning), or a combination of the two. That gave school boards only around four weeks to formulate their mid-August school reopening plans, and roughly two-thirds selected Plan C for at least the opening weeks of the school year. On September 17, Gov. Cooper permitted districts to open elementary schools using Plan A (standard health and safety protocols with minimal social distancing) starting on October 5.

Read Dr. Stoops’ full brief here. Read more about education in the state during the COVID-19 outbreak here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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