Scientists and doctors who study infectious disease in children largely agreed, in a recent New York Times survey about school openings, that elementary school students should be able to attend in-person school now. With safety measures like masking and opening windows, the benefits outweigh the risks, the majority of the 175 respondents said.
They gave The Times comments on key topics, including the risks to children of being out of school; the risks to teachers of being in school; whether vaccines are necessary before opening schools; how to achieve distance in crowded classrooms; what kind of ventilation is needed; and whether their own children’s school districts got it right.
In addition to their daily work on Covid-19, most of the experts had school-aged children themselves, half of whom were attending in-person school.
They also discussed whether the new variants could change even the best-laid school opening plans. “There will be a lot of unknowns with novel variants,” said Pia MacDonald, an infectious disease epidemiologist at RTI International, a research group. “We need to plan to expect them and to develop strategies to manage school with these new threats.”
Most of the respondents work in academic research, and about a quarter work as health care providers. We asked them what their expertise taught them that they felt others needed to understand.
Over all, they said that data suggests that with precautions, particularly masks, the risk of in-school transmission is low for both children and adults.
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