Objective: The role of school closure in mitigating coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission has been questioned. In our medical centre, during a 9-week national lockdown, an alternative school was opened for health-care workers’ (HCW) children with a small number of children per class and strict symptom surveillance. After lockdown was lifted we screened children and their parents for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) serology.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of HCW parents and their children after one teacher contracted COVID-19 following exposure at home and 53 children were exposed, isolated and tested by RT-PCR. We compared families with children attending the alternative school with families whose children who remained at home during the 9-week lockdown. Epidemiological and medical data were collected using a short questionnaire; nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs were obtained and tested for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR, and blood was collected for SARS-CoV-2 IgA and IgG titres.

Results: A total of 435 children attended the Sheba alternative school. Among the 53 children exposed to the infected teacher, none tested positive by RT-PCR. Of these, 18 children-parent pairs were tested for serology and all were negative. A total of 106/435 (24%) children and their 78 parents were recruited for the cross-sectional study; 70 attended the Sheba school and 36 did not. Approximately 16% of children in either group reported symptoms (11/70 in the school group and 6/36 in the ‘stay home’ group), but SARS-CoV-2 was not detected by PCR in any, and previous exposure, as determined by serological tests, was low and not significantly different between the groups.

Conclusion: In an alternative school for children of HCWs, active during COVID-19 national outbreak, we found no evidence of increased infection compared with children that stayed home.

Clin Microbiol Infect
Kriger O, Lustig Y, Cohen C, Amit S, Biber A, Barkai G, Talmi L, Gefen-Halevi S, Mechnik B, Regev-Yochay G.
doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2020.11.030