In-person schooling and associated COVID-19 risk in the United States over spring semester 2021

Wiens KE, Smith CP, Badillo-Goicoechea E, Grantz KH, Grabowski MK, Azman AS, Stuart EA, Lessler J

Because of the importance of schools to childhood development, the relationship between in-person schooling and COVID-19 risk has been one of the most important questions of this pandemic. Previous work in the United States during winter 2020-2021 showed that in-person schooling carried some risk for household members and that mitigation measures reduced this risk. Schooling and the COVID-19 landscape changed radically over spring semester 2021. Here, we use data from a massive online survey to characterize changes in in-person schooling behavior and associated risks over that period. We find increases in in-person schooling and reductions in mitigations over time. In-person schooling is associated with increased reporting of COVID-19 outcomes even among vaccinated individuals (although the absolute risk among the vaccinated is greatly reduced). Vaccinated teachers working outside the home were less likely to report COVID-19-related outcomes than unvaccinated teachers working exclusively from home. Adequate mitigation measures appear to eliminate the excess risk associated with in-person schooling.