Duke researchers believe it is safe for students, staff to return to in-person learning

COVID-19 and schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — After studying thousands of kids in multiple districts a team of Duke researchers believes that it’s safe for students and staff to return to school.

“Closing schools is based on older literature, and older things regarding flu,” said Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman. “It’s because flu spreads very rapidly among kids.”

Zimmerman and a team of Duke researchers studied more than 90,000 students and staff across 11 districts in North Carolina using the hybrid model of in person and online learning and found 773 COVID cases, with a limited number of cases being contracted at school.

“Only 32 of those we identified among those cases, which is pretty remarkable considering concerns about the spread of cases,” said Zimmerman.

Despite the low numbers researchers say school districts still need to be cautious.

“The assumption should be whether rates are high or low that everyone is infected,” said Zimmerman.

According to Zimmerman, the key to school success is as simple as following the three W’s: wash your hands, wait six feet apart, and wearing a mask.

“Schools are really used to keeping kids and adults safe,” said Zimmerman. “They’ve had this mentality. They do this on a regular basis. This is applying that same mentality to an infection control problem.”

That’s why Zimmerman says she supports schools moving towards a hybrid of in-class and at-home learning, routinely called ‘Plan B’.

“We’re no longer in the place of doom and gloom,” said Zimmerman. “We’re no longer in the place of this can’t be done. We’re no longer in the place of imminent failure.”

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