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COVID-19 mitigation measures in primary schools and association with infection and school staff wellbeing: An observational survey linked with routine data in Wales, UK
PLOS ONE, Volume: 17, Issue: 2, Start page: e0264023
Swansea University Authors: Emily Marchant , Lucy Griffiths , Tom Crick , Rich Fry , Joe Hollinghurst, Michaela James , Laura Cowley, Hoda Abbasizanjani , Fatemeh Torabi , Jonathan Kennedy, Ashley Akbari , Michael Gravenor , Ronan Lyons , Sinead Brophy
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IntroductionSchool-based COVID-19 mitigation strategies have greatly impacted the primary school day (children aged 3–11) including: wearing face coverings, two metre distancing, no mixing of children, and no breakfast clubs or extra-curricular activities. This study examines these mitigation measur...
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IntroductionSchool-based COVID-19 mitigation strategies have greatly impacted the primary school day (children aged 3–11) including: wearing face coverings, two metre distancing, no mixing of children, and no breakfast clubs or extra-curricular activities. This study examines these mitigation measures and association with COVID-19 infection, respiratory infection, and school staff wellbeing between October to December 2020 in Wales, UK.MethodsA school staff survey captured self-reported COVID-19 mitigation measures in the school, participant anxiety and depression, and open-text responses regarding experiences of teaching and implementing measures. These survey responses were linked to national-scale COVID-19 test results data to examine association of measures in the school and the likelihood of a positive (staff or pupil) COVID-19 case in the school (clustered by school, adjusted for school size and free school meals using logistic regression). Linkage was conducted through the SAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) Databank.ResultsResponses were obtained from 353 participants from 59 primary schools within 15 of 22 local authorities. Having more direct non-household contacts was associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 positive case in the school (1–5 contacts compared to none, OR 2.89 (1.01, 8.31)) and a trend to more self-reported cold symptoms. Staff face covering was not associated with a lower odds of school COVID-19 cases (mask vs. no covering OR 2.82 (1.11, 7.14)) and was associated with higher self-reported cold symptoms. School staff reported the impacts of wearing face coverings on teaching, including having to stand closer to pupils and raise their voices to be heard. 67.1% were not able to implement two metre social distancing from pupils. We did not find evidence that maintaining a two metre distance was associated with lower rates of COVID-19 in the school.ConclusionsImplementing, adhering to and evaluating COVID-19 mitigation guidelines is challenging in primary school settings. Our findings suggest that reducing non-household direct contacts lowers infection rates. There was no evidence that face coverings, two metre social distancing or stopping children mixing was associated with lower odds of COVID-19 or cold infection rates in the school. Primary school staff found teaching challenging during COVID-19 restrictions, especially for younger learners and those with additional learning needs.
Swansea University Medical School
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), grant number: ES/J500197/1, ES/S007393/1, MRC MR/V028367/1,