Introduction New York City (NYC) has the largest public school system in the United States (US). During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, NYC was the first major US city to open schools for in-person learning in the 2020-2021 academic year. Several policies were implemented to reduce the risk of in-school transmission, including infection control measures (facemasks, physical distancing, enhanced indoor ventilation, cohorting of small groups, and hand hygiene), option of all-remote instruction, alternative options for how class schedules would rotate in-person and remote instruction, daily symptom screening, and testing 10-20% of students and staff weekly or monthly depending on local case rates. We sought to determine which of these policies had the greatest impact on reducing the risk of in-school transmission. Methods We evaluated the impact of each policy by referring to global benchmarks for the secondary attack rate (SAR) of SARS-CoV-2 in school settings and by simulating the potential for transmission in NYC’s rotating cohort schedules, in which teachers could act as “bridges” across rotating cohorts. We estimated the impact of (1) infection control measures, (2) providing an option of all-remote instruction, (3) choice of class scheduling for in-person learners, (4) daily symptom screening, (5) testing to curtail transmission, and (6) testing to identify school outbreaks. Each policy was assessed independently of other policies, with the exception of symptom screening and random testing, which were assessed both independently and jointly. Results Among the policies analyzed, the greatest transmission reduction was associated with the infection control measures, followed by small class cohorts with an option for all-remote instruction, symptom screening, and finally randomly testing 10-20% of school attendees. Assuming adult staff are the primary source of within-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission, weekly testing of staff could be at least as effective as symptom screening, and potentially more so if testing days occur in the beginning of the workweek with results available by the following day. A combination of daily symptom screening and testing on the first workday of each week could reduce transmission by 70%. Conclusions Adherence to infection control is the highest priority for safe school re-opening. Further transmission reduction can be achieved through small rotating class cohorts with an option for remote learning, widespread testing at the beginning of the work week, and daily symptom screening and self-isolation. Randomly testing 10-20% of attendees weekly or monthly does not meaningfully curtail transmission and may not detect outbreaks before they have spread beyond a handful of individuals. School systems considering re-opening during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic or similarly virulent respiratory disease outbreaks should consider these relative impacts when setting policy priorities.
Collection : COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv
Disease X-19 Medical Review from Michael_Novakhov (2 sites)