Sep 18, 2020 - Health

Millions of COVID-19 vulnerable adults tied to schools

Illustration of the back of a man's head with an apple on top.  
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable to the coronavirus, and at least 63.2% of employees live with someone who is at increased risk, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: We know children can catch and spread the virus. This study emphasizes why minimizing risk if and when schools reopen is crucial.

Details: The study found that low-skill support staff were more likely to be vulnerable to the virus than teachers or administrators.

  • Men were more likely to be vulnerable than women, and Black employees more likely than white employees to be at increased risk.
  • More than 70% of low-skill employees, employees older than 50 and Black employees live with someone in a vulnerable category.

More than half of school-age children live with an adult who is at increased risk, with high school students more likely to live with a vulnerable adult than elementary-age students.

  • "This finding takes on special importance in the context of COVID-19, insofar as transmission risks also increase with child age," the authors note. "The risk of adult exposure may therefore be greatest when the risk of severe illness is also greatest."

The bottom line: 35.2% of all adults — and more than a quarter of adults who are at increased risk — are either employed by schools, live with someone who is, or live with a school-aged child.

  • Among at-risk adults, only 22.4% of white adults were connected to schools, compared with 34.1% of Black adults and 44.3% of Hispanic adults.
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