Since December, the Pattonville School District has been participating in a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) program studying COVID-19 transmission and mitigation strategies in schools. Pattonville joined other schools in Missouri to partner with the CDC on the project as a way to evaluate the district’s strategies for keeping students and staff safe while attending school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the study is ongoing, preliminary results in the Missouri study and previous school-related studies in the U.S. have shown that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is rare when mitigation strategies are in place.
“Our goal was to find the best ways to keep children and staff safe in school,” said Dr. Jason Newland, a local infectious disease expert who has been working with Pattonville on the study.
“What we’ve shown from just doing the pilot in St. Louis and in Springfield was that there was rare transmission in school, there was no transmission in children in modified quarantine, and there was no student-to-teacher transmission,” Newland said. On Jan. 27, Newland provided an update for families and staff on the study, as well as information on COVID-19 cases and vaccines when Pattonville hosted a special Zoom presentation. Interested persons can view the presentation online at http://bit.ly/PSDupdate-1-27-21.
Newland emphasized mask wearing as the most important mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pattonville requires all students and staff to wear masks while at school, on the bus or at extracurricular activities. Newland said other important strategies, which Pattonville employs, include social distancing to the extent possible, health care screenings that emphasize staying home when sick and hand hygiene. Pattonville has also installed plexiglass barriers in classrooms and offices and taken steps to ensure quality indoor air practices, among other strategies.
Although the CDC project will continue through spring break, Missouri’s preliminary results will be published in an upcoming issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a weekly epidemiological digest for the United States. The MMWR updates can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr.
The CDC is working with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), St. Louis University and Washington University on the Missouri schools project. Pattonville became involved as a way to help assess the district’s COVID-19 prevention strategies. The project involves in-depth COVID-19 case and contact investigations of students and staff on a voluntary basis. As part of the project, saliva-based testing is offered to some students and staff who are identified as close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case. Participation is entirely voluntary, and all health information remains confidential. Representatives from the project are also conducting enhanced interviews to understand more about mitigation practices and exposures.
Because Pattonville has put a number of health and safety measures in place to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in its schools, the number of positive cases in Pattonville schools has been relatively low. Information on Pattonville cases as well as other COVID-19 related information can be found on the district’s COVID-19 Information Hub at https://bit.ly/PSDReturns2020web.
“I can’t say thank you enough,” Newland said of Pattonville’s participation in the CDC project. “You are helping students across the country.”
Newland is a professor of pediatrics at Washington University and a physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He leads the BJC Healthcare Systems Infectious Diseases Clinical Expert Council and Antimicrobial Stewardship Collaborative.
Missouri’s vaccine plan
St. Louis County COVID-19 website
Pattonville COVID-19 information
Pattonville COVID-19 webinar