New research shows spring school closures may have saved lives

March school closings saved lives

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - New research suggests that school closures in the spring may have led to fewer COVID cases and saved thousands of lives.

The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which is a peer-reviewed medical journal, found that school closures may have been associated with about 1.37 million fewer COVID cases and 40,600 fewer deaths. The study looked at how schools could have contributed to community spread of COVID if they stayed open.

Dr. Katherine Auger who works at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and is a graduate of UAB’s medical program authored the study released Wednesday.

Researchers looked at COVID cases and deaths across all 50 states before schools closed and projected out what would have happened if schools stayed open. They compared that data to numbers we’ve seen because schools closed.

That data also factored in safety measures across the U.S. like stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures.

Dr. Auger says this data shouldn’t be used as a hard and fast rule for whether schools should reopen or remain closed, but it should definitely be a part of the conversation as districts figure out what’s best.

“Any type of reopening comes with a risk that you have to think about. we know that opening things up will result in more cases of COVID. There are ways you can do it more safely like wearing a mask and washing your hands. But there is a risk and benefit that we have to consider with everything - especially schools,” Dr. Katherine Auger, Pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital:

Two things not factored into this study are safety measures like wearing masks in schools and physical distancing in schools because that wasn’t in place when schools closed, but doctors say this data supports making sure that is in place come august.

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