We would like to address some of the feedback we've received regarding the COVID-19 in schools study, the results of which suggest that the risk of school staff acquiring SARS-CoV-2 in schools is no greater than those who don't work in schools. We wrote about this study here based on a story that originally appeared on the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force's website.
First, we would like to acknowledge how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has been for everyone — but especially for teachers and other classroom-based staff.
As we mentioned in an article about the study on March 4, 2021, the main question guiding this research has been: Are teachers and other school staff being impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic in ways we don't know or can't yet see? The intent of the study was to use sensitive serological (antibody) testing to identify whether school-based contact tracing was potentially missing any "silent" asymptomatic transmission.
The researchers began by seeking to determine the extent of silent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the school environment, in a study that was one of three studies across Canada funded by the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, with the other two in Quebec and Ontario.
It was always the intent, as much as resources allowed, to add more school districts to the B.C. study. The research team reached out to various school districts in addition to Vancouver — including in the Fraser Valley, Delta and Richmond. Vancouver, Delta and Richmond are the school districts that have signed on to date, and Vancouver was the first to report, given that it was the first to participate.
To assess the level of SARS-CoV-2 infection among Vancouver School District staff, participants were compared, when possible, with control groups from the community where they lived — matched by the first two digits of their postal code. For example, if a teacher worked in a Vancouver school but lived in White Rock, then they were matched to a person in White Rock of a similar age.
We would like to reiterate that these are preliminary findings, as the study is in pre-print ahead of peer review. Given the conversations around decisions being made about the upcoming school year, the researchers felt it was appropriate to share the data at an early stage.
In addition to looking at transmission rates in schools, the researchers also investigated the mental health of teachers and school staff. The results from this part of the study should be available soon.