Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

The risk of opening schools closely tracks the prevalence of the virus in that community.

  • The CDC's top risk indicators are the number of new cases per 100,000 people within the last two weeks, the testing positivity rate over the same period, and a school's ability to implement several key mitigation strategies (which isn't reflected in this data set).
  • Yes, but: In some rural areas, where the population is small, it only takes a handful of cases to hit what the CDC has deemed a "moderate" risk level.

By the numbers: On Sept. 8, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Iowa had the highest average statewide transmission risks in the country, according to the Coders Against COVID analysis.

  • Connecticut, D.C., New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont all had a transmission risk of 1, the lowest possible.

Iowa, Arkansas, Florida and Texas — all of which had relatively high risk scores — have ordered in-person instruction to be available part- or full-time, according to Education Week.

  • D.C. schools have been ordered to do distance learning until November, and New York City has yet to open its schools after announcing it plans to do so.

What we're watching: Data reporting is inconsistent, but Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee have all already reported more than a thousand cases in K-12 schools, the NYT reported earlier this week.

  • Many of the largest school districts still aren't open for in-person learning, and flu season is around the corner. But for now, schools have avoided some of the worst-case scenarios.

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