In an effort to mitigate the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), North Carolina closed prekindergarten through grade 12 public schools to in-person instruction on March 14, 2020. On July 15, 2020, North Carolina’s governor announced schools could open via remote learning or a hybrid model that combined in-person and remote instruction. In August 2020, 56 of 115 North Carolina school districts joined The ABC Science Collaborative (ABCs) to implement public health measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission and share lessons learned. We describe secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within participating school districts during the first 9 weeks of in-person instruction in the 2020–2021 academic year.
From August 15, 2020 to October 23, 2020, 11 of 56 school districts participating in ABCs were open for in-person instruction for all 9 weeks of the first quarter and agreed to track incidence and secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Local health department staff adjudicated secondary transmission. Superintendents met weekly with ABCs faculty to share lessons learned and develop prevention methods.
Over 9 weeks, 11 participating school districts had >90 000 students and staff attend school in person. Among these students and staff, 773 community-acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections were documented by molecular testing. Through contact tracing, health department staff determined an additional 32 infections were acquired within schools. No instances of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were reported within schools.
In the first 9 weeks of in-person instruction in North Carolina schools, we found extremely limited within-school secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2, as determined by contact tracing.