November 4, 2021

Study: Impact of virtual school on COVID-19 community incidence, mortality

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

This study, led by researchers at the University of Utah Health, Salt Lake City, and the VA Boston Healthcare System, finds no difference in COVID-19 rates between counties where school was held in-person and those that had virtual school, except in the South.

Researchers analyzed data from 895 school districts across the US and categorized them as the Northeast, Midwest, South, and Mountain West, from July to September 2020. The Pacific West was not included because nearly all public schools were virtual.

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Among the findings:

  • COVID-19 cases increased during the weeks following the start of school in all regions analyzed.
  • The South was the only region where COVID-19 case rates were higher in counties with in-person or hybrid schools, compared with counties with virtual learning.
  • In all regions, community COVID-19 case rates during the weeks following school opening were similar regardless of whether school was virtual, hybrid, or in-person.

The results suggest that it is possible for schools to operate safely and in-person without increasing COVID-19 case rates in the community, the researchers note.


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