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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reopened schools generally have not experienced large coronavirus outbreaks, an early sign that they may not be the super-spreaders some experts had feared.

Why it matters: Data so far suggest that schools can be safely reopened, alleviating one of the biggest and most sensitive tensions of the pandemic.

By the numbers: In a Brown University study of about 227,000 kids in all 50 states, the infection rate was just 0.14% among students and 0.25% percent among staff. Even in high-risk areas of the U.S., the student rates were under 0.5%.

  • New York City Public Schools found 18 positive cases out of about 10,600 tests, after nearly three weeks of an in-person school year, the New York Times reports.
  • A separate study of more than 57,000 open day care providers showed that day care was safe as long as basic safety measures, including small groups and mask-wearing, are in place.

What they’re saying: “I hope that more schools and districts will see these data, and others, and perhaps start to think about how reopening might work. We do not want to be cavalier or put people at risk. But by not opening, we are putting people at risk, too,” Brown University economist Emily Oster told The Atlantic.

Yes, but: The data, however encouraging, is still limited to smaller school districts, as most of the largest districts opened with fully remote learning.

  • Managing the logistics of mitigation strategies while juggling budget cuts, staffing and student reliance on public transit is a major challenge, Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director at the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, told Axios.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 27, 2021 - Health

Coronavirus variants demand a tougher response

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New, more contagious coronavirus variants threaten the U.S. response to COVID-19 just as the best tools to fight it are becoming available.

Why it matters: As our response to COVID-19 evolves and improves with the introduction of vaccines, so does SARS-CoV-2 itself, with new variants emerging. The next few months will demand harsher measures to control the pandemic at the very moment when exhaustion is peaking.

Jan 27, 2021 - Health

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

22 mins ago - World

One-year anniversary of Beirut blast marked by grief, anger

White roses are seen on portraits of victims of last year's Beirut port blast in the Lebanese capital, as Lebanon marks on August 4, 2021. Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Fluctuating between feelings of sadness, grief and anger, Beirut residents on Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the port explosion that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands of others.

The big picture: No senior official has been held accountable for the blast, which was caused by a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years, per Reuters.

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