Misc 22/10/2020

Outbreaks in schools exceed cases in care homes and at work for first time

There are 197 clusters of cases in schools and universities, 14% of the total

Laia Vicens
2 min
Una mestra amb mascareta i una alumna a l’Institut Escola Vila-romà de Palamós.

BarcelonaFor the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and since the beginning of the school year, active outbreaks of coronavirus in educational contexts outnumber those in nursing homes and in the workplace, and are now the second most common community infection after family settings. The data was made public this Wednesday by the Xarxa de Vigilància Epidemiològica de Catalunya (XVEC), as part of the update of the technical report of Public Health, which concludes that there are currently 197 active outbreaks in nurseries, schools and universities that affect 1,091 infected people. In other words, 14% of the total. Outbreaks are considered to be clusters "of three or more confirmed cases" that have a link between them.

Contagion in a family environment remains by far the most common with 797 outbreaks and 3,087 people affected, the equivalent of almost 60% of the cases in Catalonia. But even so, it is very significant that the infections in an educational environment have for the first time exceeded the outbreaks in care homes (956 affected in 136 outbreaks) and at work (869 affected in 64 outbreaks). Right now there are 2,013 school groups in self-isolation in Catalonia, 104 more than yesterday, representing 2.8% of the total number of students.

The technical report does not specify whether these outbreaks took place in primary schools, secondary schools or universities, which precisely for a week have been giving virtual classes to try to stop mobility and stem the spread of the virus. Even so, it does give figures broken up by age during the last few weeks, which allows some conclusions to be drawn. Although from 0 to 4 years and even from 5 to 14 years the rate of positive cases tends to rise slowly, it does not exceed 5%. However, for those between 15 and 29 years old, the rate of positive cases has gone from 7.2% on the first day of October to more than 10.5% a fortnight later. This age group, despite being very broad, would frame active outbreaks in the school environment, especially in high schools and universities.

The XVEC study does not go into detail about the causes of this increase in outbreaks in the educational environment either. One could be that the situation is much more complicated in secondary schools because it has not been possible to decrease the ratio of students and distances cannot be maintained, as denounced by the CGT unions and the Sindicat Professors de Secundària (ASPEPC-SPS) a few days ago, when they found that the effect on secondary school students was approximately double that of primary school.

Another explanation could be that in these school settings many massive screenings are taking place, which allow many asymptomatic positives to be detected and bring new cases to the surface in the statistics. This could explain the increase in isolated classes, but it would not explain why the rate of positive tests is soaring from 15 to 29 years of age and, instead, remains somewhat more contained at nursery and primary school ages.