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Passing the Test: A model-based analysis of safe school-reopening strategies.

Abstract

School transmission risk varies according to student age and community incidence and is substantially reduced with effective, consistent mitigation measures. Nevertheless, when transmission occurs, it may be difficult to detect without regular, frequent testing due to the subclinical nature of most infections in children. Teacher vaccination can reduce transmission to staff, while asymptomatic screening both improves understanding of local circumstances and reduces transmission, facilitating five-day schedules at full classroom capacity.

We parameterized school structure based on average US classrooms, with elementary schools of 638 students and high schools of 1,451 students. We varied daily community incidence from 1 to 100 cases per 100,000 population. Patients (or Participants). We simulated students, faculty/staff, and adult household members.

We projected transmission among students, staff and families during one month following introduction of a single infection into a school. We also calculated the number of infections expected for a typical 8-week quarter, contingent on community incidence rate.

We developed an agent-based network model to simulate transmission in elementary and high school communities, including home, school, and inter-household interactions.

With controlled community transmission and moderate school-based prevention measures, elementary schools can open with few in-school transmissions, while high schools require more intensive mitigation. Asymptomatic screening can both reduce transmission and provide useful information for decision-makers.

We evaluated isolation of symptomatic individuals, quarantine of an infected individual's contacts, reduced class sizes, alternative schedules, staff vaccination, and weekly asymptomatic screening.

There is uncertainty about susceptibility and infectiousness of children and low precision regarding the effectiveness of specific prevention measures, particularly with emergence of new variants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has induced historic educational disruptions. In December 2020, at least two-thirds of US public school students were not attending full-time in-person education. The Biden Administration has expressed that reopening schools is a priority.

To compare risks of SARS-COV-2 transmission in schools across different school-based prevention strategies and levels of community transmission.

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