By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – As the positivity rate of COVID-19 testing is on the rise (1.59 percent, up from 1.13 last week,) Dr. Joseph Sawyer, superintendent of public schools, stated at the October 28 School Committee meeting that Shrewsbury Schools are up by two for a cumulative of 21 positive cases since the beginning of school in its in-person hybrid model. None of these are attributed to in-school transmission.
Noted infectious disease physician Andrea Ciaranello, M.D., MPH, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, spoke with the Shrewsbury School Committee Oct. 28.
Ciaranello, an expert in how the coronavirus is affecting schools and communities, began by stating that at the beginning of the pandemic the medical community spent a lot of time questioning whether children transmit infection more than, less than or equally to adults.
The question was difficult to answer from available contact tracing and epidemiologic studies.
“It’s almost impossible in the best cases to know who infected whom,” she said.
However, there is now data emerging about in-school transmission which seems to be rare, even with moderate to high community rates and is usually associated with lack of masking.
She remarked: “There is a balance of health outcomes. Infection with COVID-19 is one physical outcome that we care about but there are a lot of other physical and mental health outcomes associated with sometimes not being in school that have been really important to learn about. For many kids remote school or not being in school has been associated with things like increases in depression and anxiety and suicide risks and substance abuse…”
She noted that access to testing for staff and students with symptoms is variable and screening of asymptomatic staff and students may be valuable.
“Do we have reason to believe that there is even a statistical relationship between community transmission and transmission in school or schools becoming unsafe?” inquired Committee member Jason Palitsch.
Ciaranello said that she truthfully didn’t have an answer. She was unaware of anyone modeling such estimates.
To view the meeting in its entirety, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTtkwG9cgHk.