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WIS ANALYSIS: DHEC data shows high schools make up majority of school COVID-19 cases

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 5:17 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to WIS’ analysis of DHEC data of coronavirus cases in public and charter schools, high school students are the main source of school cases.

There have been more than 4,200 cases of COVID-19 reported in South Carolina schools. Of those, 1,490 happened in schools where five or more cases have been reported among staff or students.

WIS analyzed those nearly 1,500 cases to see where most of them occurred and found 64% of those cases are from high school students.

In contrast, elementary and middle school students made up about 11% of cases each. While middle school staff were about 2% of cases, high school and elementary school staff were at 6% and 5% of all cases counted, respectively.

According to data provided by the South Carolina Department of Education, high schoolers are not the majority of K-12 students. They make up 29% of that category while K-5 students are 38% and middle school students are 33%.

This is in line with a recent CDC study showing adolescents ages 12-17 are about twice as likely as children ages 5-11 to contract COVID-19.

The World Health Organization agrees with the CDC findings. The group’s October 21 report writes, “Studies suggest that children < 10 years are less susceptible and less infectious than older ones.”

Prisma Health pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Burch said it’s still early in the study of the virus’ spread, but there are some theories as to why.

“But really let’s be honest, high schoolers have the body size like an adult for the most part. So, they can easily spread the virus if they have it,” Burch said. “And they are high schoolers so they are probably not as good about making sure they are wearing their mask, washing their hands, [and] doing all those mitigation factors we know absolutely make a difference,” she added.

Burch also said it is likely that most of the cases among people who study or work at these schools were not contracted at school.

“If you look at the percent positive cases in the school versus the general public most schools are much less compared to the general community percent positive in the same community,” she said.

For more information on COVID-19 in schools from DHEC, visit this link.

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