The Economist Who Says Schools Are Safer Than You Think

“There was a really open question: Are schools going to be the locus of tremendous spread? That conversation has shifted a lot, but in the summer there was this idea that we’re going to open schools and that’s going to be the thing that destroys everything.

That does not seem to be true. We’re not seeing schools as the locus of large amounts of spread. The rates are actually quite low—even though the way we measure rates, just to be clear, is not spread in schools, but just people affiliated with schools who have COVID. So it doesn’t mean they got it at the school. But even there, we’re seeing rates that are pretty much in line with what we’re seeing in the community. Maybe a little bit lower for students, maybe a little bit higher for staff.

We’re seeing fairly optimistic information about the idea that you could have schools operate safely, even in areas where there’s some reasonable amount of community spread. Masking probably does matter. That’s probably the most robust correlate in the data, that those places that are masking seem to have much lower rates than places that are not. But I think the thing that we got the most attention for—rightly, because it moved people’s priors a lot—was just this idea that not everyone at the school got COVID the day it opened.

We are seeing some of these differences across age groups. To the extent that there are places with larger numbers of cases, they seem to be high schools.”

“we have seen the thing that people feared at the college level. Not at all colleges, but a lot. When Penn State opened, you could see on a COVID map where Penn State is, because it was just totally overwhelmed. In some ways I find it actually surprising that we have not seen more high schools that looked like that. And I’m not sure why that’s so different.”

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