Elementary and high schools do not appear to be COVID-19 super-spreaders, new data suggests — a finding that threatens to turn some pandemic theories on their head.
Statistics involving 200,000 schoolkids from 47 states in the last two weeks of September yielded an overall coronavirus infection rate of just .13 percent among students and .24 percent for staffers, according to Brown University economics Professor Emily Oster and her team of number-crunchers.
The figures translate into what would be roughly 1.3 infections for a school with 1,000 kids in the two-week period, and 2.2 positive tests for every 1,000 staffers in the same time frame.
“I think it was thought the minute we get people together in schools, there would be these huge outbreaks — and that hasn’t come to pass,’’ Oster told The Post on Sunday.
She added that it is crucial to weigh the dangers of the virus against the drawbacks to online learning for students, teachers and parents.
“It’s tricky to say, ‘Why not be safe and do the safest thing’ ” and go to all-remote learning, Oster said. “Well, you’re not looking at the e-mails I’m getting.”
She recounted how a woman wrote her Sunday morning “and said her daughter’s best friend killed herself and left a note saying, ‘I can’t handle the way school is.’ ”
The dead student was in high school.
“That is just an anecdote, but I think we are forgetting the human cost on the other side some of the time,’’ Oster said.
The prof specifically called out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for allegedly treating schools as if they were major coronavirus breeding grounds without the figures to back it up.
“Democratic governors who love to flaunt their pro-science bona fides in comparison with the anti-science Trump administration don’t seem to be aware of this growing body of evidence,’’ Oster wrote in The Atlantic magazine Friday.
“On Monday, for instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo claimed that businesses were not ‘mass spreaders,’ as opposed to schools, and subsequently announced that he would close schools in hot-spot areas.”
She added to The Post, “He said schools are a big risk. … I don’t think he has good data showing that.’’
Students in a classroom at One World Middle School in the Bronx.Michael Appleton
A spokesman with the governor’s office responded to The Post on Sunday, “We know mass gatherings, congregate settings have the highest rate of transmission.
“Schools do have a congregate setting,’’ the rep said.
He said the governor has been pushing testing in schools because more data is needed and “not enough is being done in the city” so far to get adequate statistics.
“We’ve been flying blind,’’ the spokesman said. “And that’s what’s not acceptable.’’
As The Post reported Saturday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the city‘s public schools went up 67 percent in the past week and involved 98 students and 207 teachers. The percentage rate of the positive tests one week to the next was not immediately clear.
Oster — whose own kids, ages 5 and 9, are back full-time in the classroom at their private school in Rhode Island — said there definitely needs to be more data collected before any final conclusions can be drawn.
“I think our big takeaway is it’s invaluable to see the numbers and with what [people] are comfortable with,’’ she said, noting her group has been reaching out to states and national and local public and private school organizations to get more data.