Two years into the pandemic, you might think that, by now, schools would have figured out a strategy to continue teaching kids while keeping them safe from the coronavirus. Instead, the school situation is more chaotic than ever. Thousands of schools went online or closed entirely this week, likely more than in any other week since spring 2020. And yet: there is currently no national data source tracking COVID-19 cases in schools, and nine states fail to report any data on this crucial topic.
At this point in the pandemic, we know that routine COVID-19 testing can be a key tactic for reducing transmission in communal settings. If you identify cases as soon as they occur through asymptomatic testing, you can quickly isolate those cases and quarantine their contacts—preventing the cases from turning into outbreaks. This strategy works everywhere from kindergarten classrooms to the NBA.
Most states report vaccination rates by county, ZIP code, or another similar local jurisdiction. But when I was updating the COVID-19 Data Dispatch vaccine annotations page last week, I noticed one unique offering: Maine is reporting vaccination rates for teenagers, ages 12 to 18, by school administrative unit.
In the COVID-19 Data Dispatch’s “Opening” series, we profiled five school communities that successfully reopened during the 2020-2021 school year. Through exploring these success stories, we found that the schools used many similar strategies to build trust with their communities and keep COVID-19 case numbers down.