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Should you send your kid back to school? New study shows the risk on a county-wide basis | #covid19 | #kids | #childern | #parenting | #parenting | #kids




With the 2020-21 school year fast approaching, parents across the country are debating on whether to send their children back to school despite troubling COVID-19 trends.


A new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin weighs the risk that students with COVID-19 could arrive at schools and bring the virus on campus. The study uses the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community to determine the risk the virus may be introduced to a school there. The New York Times published the study in an interactive guide that shows the risk the virus poses to schools in counties across the U.S.


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“Based on current infection rates, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one infected person would be expected to show up to a school of 500 students and staff in the first week, if school started today,” the NYT reported. 


UT researcher and study team member Lauren Ancel Meyers told the NYT the study is meant to help inform schools on when it is safe to bring students back onto campuses. Researchers said the study is  “a rough guide, a first step,” considering the projections are based on COVID-19 prevalence that is likely to change over time and estimates that five people may be infected for each known case.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Texas increased to 456,237 and deaths increased to 7,544 as of Monday evening, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of state data. The Houston region is now at 109,585 cases total and Harris County is at 78,105 cases total.


The estimates also assume that children are just as likely to transmit the virus as adults, although much of this is still largely unknown. COVID-19 poses “relatively low risks” to school-aged children compared to adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Another important factor to consider is that schools within the same county may have varying levels of risk due to hot spots and socioeconomic and racial disparities. Schools located in COVID-19 hot spots or in vulnerable communities are at higher risk for having an outbreak, per the study.


The NYT’s interactive guide shows that out of eight Houston-area counties, schools in Brazoria County are most at risk in terms of the number of people that could bring the virus onto campuses there.


Per the NYT guide, the number of COVID-19 positive people that could arrive at a school of 500 students during the first week of instruction includes: 


Brazoria County: 7
Chambers County: 5
Fort Bend County: 2
Galveston County: 6
Harris County: 5
Liberty County: 4
Montgomery County: 3
Waller County: 3


Per the NYT guide, the number of COVID-19 positive people that could arrive at a school of 1,000 students during the first week of instruction includes: 


Brazoria County: 13
Chambers County: 11
Fort Bend County: 4
Galveston County: 13
Harris County: 10
Liberty County: 8
Montgomery County: 6
Waller County: 7


In the Houston region, local leaders have strongly advocated that schools remain closed until case counts and deaths decrease, leading health authorities to order all Harris County schools to delay in-person classes until at least Sept. 8. Last week Gov. Greg Abbott said health officials do not hold this power and clarified that only school boards and state education officials can decide when campuses may start in-person instruction.


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Most Houston-area school districts are opting to start the year virtually under the Texas Education Agency’s recently-extended eight-week grace period. After that eight weeks, schools may ask for an extension to keep campuses closed that the TEA will consider on a case-by-case basis.


The Houston Chronicle’s Shelby Webb reports that following a Monday school board meeting, Humble ISD will be the only district in the Houston area to reopen campuses and offer in-person instruction this August.


For parents that chose to have their students stay at home, the district will still offer virtual instruction for the remainder of the year. About 35 percent of families opted out of on-campus instruction, the Houston Chronicle’s Savannah Mehrtens reports. 


Find more on the UT study here. To explore the interactive guide, click here. 


rebecca.hennes@chron.com





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