As U.S. children get ready to return to classrooms, a new study is shedding some light on the chances that they could be sitting next to someone who is infected with the COVID-19 virus.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests that as of today, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one person with the COVID-19 virus would be expected to show up to school during the opening week.
The chance a student or staff member would come to school with an active case of the novel coronavirus was calculated by looking at the size of the school – how many students and staff – and where it is located. Those factors gave researchers the likely number of people who would have contracted the virus outside of school and then brought the infection to the campus.
Lauren Ancel Meyers, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas at Austin who led the research team, told The New York Times that the study is meant as a guide to help school systems and parents make decisions about schools based on what the local conditions are at the time.
“It’s meant to guide schools so they can anticipate when it might be safe, or easier, to open and bring kids in,” Meyers said.
The estimates, according to researchers, assume that children are as likely to carry and transmit the virus as adults are.
While many believe that the virus is not spread by children in the same way it is by adults, a study out of South Korea is shedding a different light on children and the rate of transmission.
The study that was released last month showed children younger than 10 transmit the virus to others much less often than adults transmit the virus, but children between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.
The Times has put together an interactive map where you can click on the county in which you live and get the projected number of students and staff likely to come to school with the virus. The map will be updated with changing numbers as the weeks go on.
As of this week, eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee – with schools having up to 100 students and staff, would likely see one infected person in the first week of school.
If the school has 500 students and staff, that number would jump to 19 states seeing at least one infected person showing up for school, the Times reported.