Can We Now Open Schools?

There is a great emphasis on social distancing when it comes to controlling the spread of the novel corona virus. What is baffling is that we often see photos depicting proper social distancing in open spaces, on a sidewalk, for instance, near the entrance of a store. A study in Japan, not yet peer reviewed, states, "The odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.0, 57.9)". Another study, also not yet peer reviewed, concludes, "All identified outbreaks of three or more cases occurred in an indoor environment, which confirms that sharing indoor space is a major SARS-CoV-2 infection risk." With this is  mind, opening schools presents a great risk. An indoor environment like a school not only confines air, but also provides places or objects touched by many individuals. Schools, however, have reopened in Denmark. How can Denmark afford the risk?

Above copied from BBC

One can look at the measures schools in Denmark have made. First, Denmark only opened schools for primary school children. This provides a much bigger space for the students as secondary schools became available for these younger students since both primary and secondary schooling are usually in the same campus. Pupils are grouped into small bubbles of ten to twelve individuals. All children are required to wash their hands at least once every hour. And school libraries remained closed. With strict social distancing inside a classroom and no exchange of individuals between bubbles, any possible transmission is limited. Schools in Denmark have been opened since mid-April. And here is the current COVID-19 situation in Denmark.

Above copied from Worldometer

Cases continue to drop even after schools have reopened. And today, for instance, Denmark reports only 46 new cases of COVID-19. But here is the much more important number: 12,274 tests. Denmark is still widely testing and its positive rate is less than 0.4 percent. For comparison, the state of Virginia has 1067 new cases today with 5467 tests. That is about 20 percent, fifty times higher than that of Denmark. That is almost two orders of magnitude. Transmission requires carriers of the virus and it is only with testing that we can identify and then isolate possible carriers. This is a huge difference between influenza and COVID-19. There are so many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Temperature checks are not going to catch all carriers. We therefore need flawless social distancing and hygiene to prevent transmission, which is difficult, if not possible inside our school buildings. Only with testing and isolation can our imperfect measures be good enough to stop the corona virus. The next school year is about three months away.

We do not need to wait for a low percent positive rate for testing like what Denmark currently has. Denmark opened its schools when the positive testing rate is about five percent, but one can clearly see that testing in Denmark has not decreased. Thousands continue to be tested each day and the rate of testing has even increased after schools reopened.

Above copied from the Danish Health Authority

We need to do a better job with testing first before we can ask how schools will reopen in the Fall.