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School closures in spring linked to drastic decrease in Covid-19 cases and deaths

STAT reports:

When state officials were deciding whether to shutter their schools back in March, the evidence they had to work with was thin. They knew kids easily catch and spread influenza — and that school holidays and closures have helped slow its spread. But they weren’t sure if the same was true for Covid-19.

Now, a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that closing all of a state’s schools was associated with a drastic decrease in both Covid-19 cases and deaths. And the point at which officials made that call mattered: Those states that adopted the policy while few people were testing positive saw a correlated flatter curve of cases.

“It’s a nice study. It’s clear that coincident with closing down schools, the numbers improved,” said Helen Boucher, chief of the division of geographic medicine and infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the research. But she noted that we have to be careful about drawing overly broad conclusions from a single sliver of a sweeping shutdown strategy: “School closing didn’t happen in a vacuum.”

It also still isn’t clear how likely kids of different ages are to get and pass on the virus, which makes it hard to tease out the reasons why school closures might have helped to shift the outbreak. [Continue reading…]

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