From the Field

The Effects of School Reopenings on Covid-19 Hospitalizations

Download PDF

With rising Covid-19 hospitalizations across the country, schools are grappling with whether to reopen for in-person instruction. In a recent working paper, a Tulane University team of researchers—Douglas N. Harris, Engy Ziedan, and Susan Hassig—suggest that it is safe to reopen schools in communities with relatively few Covid cases requiring hospitalization.

In the first analysis of its kind, the researchers compared the timing and mode of school reopening to the rate of hospitalizations for COVID-19 related diagnoses in almost all counties in the nation.

For counties whose pre-opening total of new Covid-19 hospitalization rates were below 36 to 44 per 100,000 population each week, the researchers found that in-person schooling had no effect on hospitalization rates. For counties where the baseline of new hospitalizations was above that level, the estimates were inconsistent across methods and were therefore inconclusive.

The hybrid and opt-in models that characterize many school reopening plans across the country make it difficult to analyze the full effect on COVID-19 health outcomes. These results reflect a need for more thorough research and careful planning on behalf of policymakers and school leaders when deciding whether to open schools for in-person instruction.

By Robert Nishimwe