Report: Georgia health officials show how COVID moves in schools, infecting teachers, kids and families

Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images

Educators are spreading COVID-19 to kids in the classroom. At the same time, kids are infecting teachers, and household members can be infected by their own children.

That’s part of recent study out of a Georgia district, which tracked eight public schools to determine how the educators and students transmitted the virus.

The investigation of several Georgia schools conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, along with local Georgia health departments, suggests that educators play an “important” role in COVID transmission in schools.

For example, in some cases, teachers were in small-group instruction and were closely working with students, the report notes.

The cases in the report included transmission related to: educator-to-educator, educator-to-student, educator-to-household, student-to-student, student-to-educator, student-to-household.

The investigation was conducted during Dec. 1, 2020 through Jan. 22, 2021 at the public schools in the same school district. The results were published Monday of this week.

Here is what one of the cases looks like in this report:

Graphic showing how COVID likely spread through nine clusters in Georgia schools. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One educator spread COVID to two students and a second educator. Of the two students, one of them transmitted to a household member outside of school. Then, that second educator spread COVID to a student, which then spread to that student’s household. That second educator spread also it to their own household.

As part of the overall report, in some cases it couldn’t be determined whether a student or a teacher, or both, transmitted the virus.

The Georgia report has implications for other states, including Florida, which is on the state line for many North Florida school districts.

The Georgia findings come as Florida teachers are in the spotlight regarding COVID vaccine prioritization. Because some of the transmissions in the Georgia report occurred from educator-to-educator, some advocates see it as further evidence that teachers should be prioritized in COVID vaccines.

At a Tuesday press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that classroom teachers and sworn law enforcement aged 50 or older could get vaccines soon.

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Teacher Association, has been advocating for all educators to receive COVID vaccination prioritization, regardless of age.

“[The CDC Georgia study] shows that COVID does spread in our schools,” Spar said. “They said it spreads largely adult to adult, like in faculty meetings, but they also said it spreads from adult to kids.”

He continued: “What the governor could do is simply include all educators, especially those at high risk, in the next round of vaccinations…If the governor were to do that, then we would know we’re protecting the continuity of learning.”

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.