Bonus: Data Collection & Schools in UK
(Yes, I know you are tired of this; last post on schools for a while)
I’ve been talking a lot, lot, lot here about schools. After the last set of posts, a few people wrote, basically, “We get it. You think schools should open.” Fair point. So the main newsletter will take a break from schools. Don’t worry, there will still be COVID-19. Thursday, look for a post which deals with caffeine in pregnancy and breastfeeding and COVID.
But before we go, I have two bonus notes for today on schools.
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is
You are probably tiring of me complaining about data. Eventually, it is necessary, more or less, to either put up or shut up. I cannot go on complaining endlessly about data and yak-ing about schools and do nothing.
So: I’ll be talking less about schools here, and working more on them elsewhere. Specifically, I started a partnership with the School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (that’s the AASA, NAESP and NASSP to you) and Qualtrics to try to collect as much comprehensive data on COVID-19 in schools as we can.
It’s my child care data collection project, only with actual experts and much, much more ambition. You can see the announcement here and there is a link in there if you want to participate or be updated to learn more.
I’ll try to keep updates in this space, on occasion, but you can also follow me on Twitter if you want to get lots and lots of details as we ramp up over the next month.
Schools in UK
This morning, a new report came out on the experience of schools in the UK in June. This was very exciting because it is comprehensive (i.e. they have information on all detected cases in schools), they know how many students were enrolled, and the UK experienced a relatively bad pandemic (not as bad as the US, but worse than many places in Europe).
The structure of the study is simple. They have information on kids enrolled and on staff, by school age. They record cases, both individual cases (like, someone in the school was sick) and “outbreaks” which they defined as at least 2 cases together. And then they report the results. They attempted to infer the source of the infection in most cases, to identify whether it was likely the infection was acquired at school.
Since you will ask: the precautions used here include distancing and bubbles but typically did not require masks.
The whole report is worth reading in detail, but I’ll pull out some highlights.
For the month of June, there were an average of 843,430 student and 519,590 staff per day at schools (including teaching and non-teaching staff).
The study records 70 cases in students and 128 cases in staff, for a monthly rate of 0.008% in students and 0.02% in staff.
30 of the 70 student cases and 37 of the 128 staff cases were individual cases which did not seem to be acquired at school. For most of the rest it was unclear how infection was acquired, although there were several cases with clear in-school transmission. This was mostly staff-to-staff.
Outbreaks are clearly correlated with regional incidence, which is not surprising, although it is notable that London did not have any outbreaks.
The paper does a very nice job walking through all of the outbreaks and trying to map out where they might have come from and the direction of transmission.
What do we learn here? First, these numbers are very low. It’s true that the incidence of COVID-19 at this time was also low, but I would suspect these numbers are smaller than most people expect. There are certainly places in the US which have incidence rates in the range covered by these UK data, and even allowing for the possibility that slightly higher incidence would lead to slightly more outbreaks, the numbers are very, very small.
Second, this reinforces the relatively higher risk for teachers than students and the importance of preventing staff-to-staff transmission. We really need to figure out how to make sure staff are protected.
Finally, I will say again that this highlights the value of data. We learn so much here. Going back to the segment of this post, I hope that we can do the same for the US, or at least something similar.