As the debate about reopening American schools in the fall rages on, a new study conducted by the Dresden University Hospital in Germany could shed some light on the matter.
The study, the largest of its kind in Germany, tested more than 2,000 students and teachers at 13 schools in three different districts in Saxony, the only German state to reopen schools with full class sizes in May. The results showed only 12 participants tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, five of whom had previously tested positive for the active virus, suggesting the schools did not play a major role in spreading the virus. Indeed, they may have even helped curb transmission.
"Children act more as a brake on infection," said Prof. Reinhard Berner, the head of pediatric medicine at Dresden University Hospital and leader of the study. "Not every infection that reaches them is passed on."
There are several caveats, however. For starters, Saxony has had a lower infection rate overall than other parts of Germany during the pandemic, so it's natural the rate would be lower among subgroups, as well. Still, even if areas with larger epidemics are more cautious, the study could be useful for other places with fewer cases.
Another complication is the fact that while Saxony allowed for full classrooms, parents won the right to keep their children home, so it's unclear if schools were really operating at full capacity.
Finally, a new study out of the United Kingdom suggests immunity to the novel virus wanes within months, so while that research warrants its own skepticism, it's possible more students in the German study were at one point infected but no longer produce antibodies. Read more at The Guardian and Yahoo News.