Background: Benefits of school reopening must be weighed against the morbidity and mortality risks and the impact of enhancing spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We investigated the effects of school reopening and easing of social-distancing restrictions on dynamics of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in Israel between March and July 2020.
Methods: We examined the nationwide age-wise weekly incidence, prevalence, SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction tests, their positivity, COVID-19 hospitalizations, and associated mortality. Temporal differences in these parameters following school reopening, school ending, and following easing of restrictions such as permission of large-scale gatherings were examined.
Results: Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections gradually increased following school reopening in all age groups, with a significantly higher increase in adults than children. Higher rate ratios (RRs) of sample positivity rates 21-27 days following school reopening relative to positivity rates prior to openings were found for the age groups 40-59 (RR, 4.72; 95% CI, 3.26-6.83) and 20-39 (RR, 3.37 [2.51-4.53]) years, but not for children aged 0-9 (RR, 1.46 [.85-2.51]) and 10-19 (RR, .93 [.65-1.34]) years. No increase was observed in COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and deaths following school reopening. In contrast, permission of large-scale gatherings was accompanied by increases in incidence and positivity rates of samples for all age groups, and increased hospitalizations and mortality.
Conclusions: This analysis does not support a major role of school reopening in the resurgence of COVID-19 in Israel. Easing restrictions on large-scale gatherings was the major influence on this resurgence.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; children; reopening; schools.
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