I read and analyzed all of the sources cited in the DESE document released 6/25. You can see my write-ups of all of the sources here.
Here's what I found:
The report has 84 citations of 53 unique sources:
- 8 of the 53 sources are public-facing CDC web pages
- 2 of the 53 sources are state school reopening plans (California and Oregon)
- 4 of the 53 sources are from government sources in non-USA countries. The reports are from Australia, Denmark, France, and Hong Kong.
- 2 of the 53 sources are WHO (World Health Organization) web pages.
- 1 of the 53 sources is a public-facing guidance document from a Toronto Children's Hospital
- 3 of the 53 sources are Massachusetts public-facing state web pages.
- 4 of the 53 sources are news articles
- 18 of the 53 sources are peer-reviewed scientific journal articles.
- 5 of the 53 sources are pre-print (not yet peer reviewed) scientific journal manuscripts
- 6 of the 53 sources were scientific journal articles/manuscripts for which peer review status was unclear
Many of the studies cited have an extremely small sample size.
- This study looked at 13 family clusters in Israel.
- This study looked at 39 households in Switzerland.
- This study looked at 11 people, only one child, in the French Alps.
- This study looked at 18 COVID-19 cases in schools in New South Wales, Australia.
- This study focused on 6 COVID-19 cases in schools in Ireland.
Several locations where studies took place or for which guidelines were written have much lower COVID-19 infection rates than Massachusetts.
- Oregon's infection rate per 100,000 people is over 9 times lower than that of Massachusetts.
- California's infection rate per 100,000 people is less than half of that of Massachusetts.
- France's infection rate per 100,000 is over 6 times lower than Massachusetts.
- New South Wales, Australia's infection rate per 100,000 is over 37 times lower than that of Massachusetts.
Additionally, some of the sources did not prove the claim that DESE attempted to make with them. Of 81 claims made:
- 7 are not supported by the source cited
- 59 claims are supported by the source cited
- 4 claims have partial support
- 1 claim is somewhat supported
- 4 claims have limited support
- 4 claims have extremely limited support
Here are some of the unsupported claims (all quotes from DESE guidance):
- "In NYC, in households with at least one COVID-19 case, prevalence of infection for children 5-≤18 was 31.9% vs. overall prevalence 52.5%."
- "Whereas for COVID-19 it appears children are less likely to be infected with and to transmit COVID-19, this is not the case for influenza, where children are frequent transmitters."
- "As noted in previous guidance, temperature checks are not recommended as screening for all students due to the high likelihood of potential false positive and false negative results"
- "Finally, this guidance is for fall reopening and is predicated on the Commonwealth continuing to progress through the phases of reopening with low COVID-19 public health metrics"
- "Mask breaks should occur throughout the day."
- Schools do not appear to have played a major role in COVID-19 transmission. In a review of COVID clusters, only 4% (8 of 210) involved school transmission."
- "If infected, it appears children may be less likely to infect others with COVID-19."
It appears that DESE cherry-picked data that supported a return to school, rather than looking critically at all available evidence to make a science-based decision about school safety. Inconsistencies in the report, such as inconsistent citation formatting and claims which do not align with the geographical facts of a study, raise concern as to the accuracy of the report. Additionally, the fact that none of the medical professionals involved are named raises questions as to why they do not want their work recognized.
The DESE report also leaves out important research on adult COVID-19 infection risk and transmission data. For schools to open for in-person schooling, numerous adults will need to be in school buildings. There was a recent outbreak in a school in North Carolina amongst the staff. To ignore the data on adult transmission when adults must be present for schools to re-open, is irresponsible. I will write a separate post with some studies about COVID-19 in adults, and school-related COVID-19 cases.
I urge you to contact state level education officials to urge them to reconsider this guidance in light of the dangers to school staff safety.
- Massachusetts Board of Education: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser: email@example.com
- Massachusetts Return to School Working Group: RTSWG@mass.gov
- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker contact form or firstname.lastname@example.org