Local public health experts say the data seems pretty clear -- after several weeks of in-person or hybrid learning, COVID-19 is not spreading in Massachusetts schools as some had feared.
“What we’re seeing in schools is that there are occasional cases that occur, but what we’re not necessarily seeing are cases where kids are acquiring the infection in school,” said Dr. Paul Sax, who studies COVID-19 closely as the clinical director of the Infectious Diseases Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Sax is one of many local public health experts backing up what Gov. Charlie Baker suggested Thursday.
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“The real-life experience and the research with respect to schools, is overwhelming at this point that schools are not spreaders," the governor said.
Massachusetts health officials on Thursday announced that 129 students and 73 staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week, an increase over the previous week. There have now been a total of 388 cases in students and 233 in staff dating back to Sept. 24. No districts reported more than six cases in the last week.
Dr. Brooke Nichols, an infectious disease modeler at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said the data supporting this goes well beyond the Commonwealth.
“In places like the Netherlands there’s no distancing, there’s no masks, and yet still large outbreaks in primary schools don’t seem to be occurring,” Nichols said.
That’s part of the reason why many health officials are concerned with Boston Public Schools' decision to switch to fully remote learning this week.
“The mayor’s decision to switch to remote learning I find extremely troubling," Nichols said.
"It kind of feels strange to have some bars and restaurants open but to have schools closed, and I would say we should try to emphasize maintaining schools opening if possible,” Sax added.
But some parents feel even a small risk is too much when it comes to their children.
“They come home sick every week when they’re in school -- it’s nothing new,” Bellingham parent Eric McKenzie said.
“I think it’s utter nonsense, people are scared about schools not opening so they’re coming up with whatever they can and I’m not buying it," said Stanley Bradwin, a parent in Uxbridge.
As with everything concerning COVID, health experts said there is always more research to be done and more that scientists are learning every day about the virus and its transmission.