Schools can reopen without fear according to latest research

Ed Burgener, P.Eng(ret).

As of the past few weeks, an overwhelming scientific case for opening schools has been built. It’s mostly founded on a new report from South Korea that found that it was extremely rare for children to bring an infection into the home. Just 2.7 per cent of potential “index cases” (first case in the home) were under age 20. All students, right up to university, would fall into this age grouping.

But that 2.7 percent still sounds like a lot. What does it really mean? According to Professor Francois Balloux of the University of Lausanne Genetics Institute, those contact tracing investigations did not include genetic mapping and therefore the report was unable to determine the first case into the home. The paper itself says, “[W]e could not determine the direction of transmission.” That contrasts with the contact-tracing study from Iceland, which mapped haplotypes to determine the direction of transmission and found it was almost always parent to child. 

And then there’s this from Alasdair Munro, a clinical research fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at University Hospital Southampton, a foremost expert on pediatric COVID-19: “I have seen unpublished data on this same cohort of children. Almost every single secondary case from a child index case SHARED the initial exposure, meaning they probably got infected at the same time, the child having just developing the symptoms first.” 

That means that the child did not bring the infection into the home. 

The conclusion is that Manitoba can open its schools with next to zero risk to students, teachers and parents. It should be less risky than the common flu virus. Teachers do have a tiny risk of contracting the illness from the community at large and then communicating it to other teachers. That speaks to teachers taking precautions when they get together in schools.

As the World Health Organization said a couple of months ago: “There has not been a single case of a child under 10 transmitting COVID-19, (in 78 studies).”

It’s time the provincial government used the latest science and used a team approach to engage with school boards, teachers, and parents in every school district in Manitoba. The public’s fears are real, and must be faced up to, as they are amplified daily by the sensationalist news media. We can and should open schools in a month’s time.