Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Systematic Review
Add like
Add dislike
Add to saved papers

Measures implemented in the school setting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

BACKGROUND: More than 767 million coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) cases and 6.9 million deaths with COVID-19 have been recorded as of August 2023. Several public health and social measures were implemented in schools to contain the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and prevent onward transmission. We built upon methods from a previous Cochrane review to capture current empirical evidence relating to the effectiveness of school measures to limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

OBJECTIVES: To provide an updated assessment of the evidence on the effectiveness of measures implemented in the school setting to keep schools open safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register, Educational Resources Information Center, World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Global literature on coronavirus disease database, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Evidence Synthesis Program COVID-19 Evidence Reviews on 18 February 2022.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Eligible studies focused on measures implemented in the school setting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, among students (aged 4 to 18 years) or individuals relating to the school, or both. We categorized studies that reported quantitative measures of intervention effectiveness, and studies that assessed the performance of surveillance measures as either 'main' or 'supporting' studies based on design and approach to handling key confounders. We were interested in transmission-related outcomes and intended or unintended consequences.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors screened titles, abstracts and full texts. We extracted minimal data for supporting studies. For main studies, one review author extracted comprehensive data and assessed risk of bias, which a second author checked. We narratively synthesized findings for each intervention-comparator-outcome category (body of evidence). Two review authors assessed certainty of evidence.

MAIN RESULTS: The 15 main studies consisted of measures to reduce contacts (4 studies), make contacts safer (7 studies), surveillance and response measures (6 studies; 1 assessed transmission outcomes, 5 assessed performance of surveillance measures), and multicomponent measures (1 study). These main studies assessed outcomes in the school population (12), general population (2), and adults living with a school-attending child (1). Settings included K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12; 9 studies), secondary (3 studies), and K-8 (kindergarten to grade 8; 1 study) schools. Two studies did not clearly report settings. Studies measured transmission-related outcomes (10), performance of surveillance measures (5), and intended and unintended consequences (4). The 15 main studies were based in the WHO regions of the Americas (12), Europe (2), and Eastern Mediterranean (1). Comparators were more versus less intense measures, single versus multicomponent measures, and measures versus no measures. We organized results into relevant bodies of evidence, or groups of studies relating to the same 'intervention-comparator-outcome' categories. Across all bodies of evidence, certainty of evidence ratings limit our confidence in findings. Where we describe an effect as 'beneficial', the direction of the point estimate of the effect favours the intervention; a 'harmful' effect does not favour the intervention and 'null' shows no effect either way. Measures to reduce contact (4 studies) We grouped studies into 21 bodies of evidence: moderate- (10 bodies), low- (3 bodies), or very low-certainty evidence (8 bodies). The evidence was very low to moderate certainty for beneficial effects of remote versus in-person or hybrid teaching on transmission in the general population. For students and staff, mostly harmful effects were observed when more students participated in remote teaching. Moderate-certainty evidence showed that in the general population there was probably no effect on deaths and a beneficial effect on hospitalizations for remote versus in-person teaching, but no effect for remote versus hybrid teaching. The effects of hybrid teaching, a combination of in-person and remote teaching, were mixed. Very low-certainty evidence showed that there may have been a harmful effect on risk of infection among adults living with a school student for closing playgrounds and cafeterias, a null effect for keeping the same teacher, and a beneficial effect for cancelling extracurricular activities, keeping the same students together and restricting entry for parents and caregivers. Measures to make contact safer (7 studies) We grouped studies into eight bodies of evidence: moderate- (5 bodies), and low-certainty evidence (3 bodies). Low-certainty evidence showed that there may have been a beneficial effect of mask mandates on transmission-related outcomes. Moderate-certainty evidence showed full mandates were probably more beneficial than partial or no mandates. Evidence of a beneficial effect of physical distancing on risk of infection among staff and students was mixed. Moderate-certainty evidence showed that ventilation measures probably reduce cases among staff and students. One study (very low-certainty evidence) found that there may be a beneficial effect of not sharing supplies and increasing desk space on risk of infection for adults living with a school student, but showed there may be a harmful effect of desk shields. Surveillance and response measures (6 studies) We grouped studies into seven bodies of evidence: moderate- (3 bodies), low- (1 body), and very low-certainty evidence (3 bodies). Daily testing strategies to replace or reduce quarantine probably helped to reduce missed school days and decrease the proportion of asymptomatic school contacts testing positive (moderate-certainty evidence). For studies that assessed the performance of surveillance measures, the proportion of cases detected by rapid antigen detection testing ranged from 28.6% to 95.8%, positive predictive value ranged from 24.0% to 100.0% (very low-certainty evidence). There was probably no onward transmission from contacts of a positive case (moderate-certainty evidence) and replacing or shortening quarantine with testing may have reduced missed school days (low-certainty evidence). Multicomponent measures (1 study) Combining multiple measures may have led to a reduction in risk of infection among adults living with a student (very low-certainty evidence).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: A range of measures can have a beneficial effect on transmission-related outcomes, healthcare utilization and school attendance. We rated the current findings at a higher level of certainty than the original review. Further high-quality research into school measures to control SARS-CoV-2 in a wider variety of contexts is needed to develop a more evidence-based understanding of how to keep schools open safely during COVID-19 or a similar public health emergency.

Full text links

We have located links that may give you full text access.
Can't access the paper?
Try logging in through your university/institutional subscription. For a smoother one-click institutional access experience, please use our mobile app.

Related Resources

For the best experience, use the Read mobile app

Mobile app image

Get seemless 1-tap access through your institution/university

For the best experience, use the Read mobile app

All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2024 by WebMD LLC.
This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.

By using this service, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.

Your Privacy Choices Toggle icon

You can now claim free CME credits for this literature searchClaim now

Get seemless 1-tap access through your institution/university

For the best experience, use the Read mobile app