UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The association of opening K–12 schools with the spread of COVID-19 in the United States : County-level panel data analysis Chernozhukov, Victor; Kasahara, Hiroyuki; Schrimpf, Paul


This paper empirically examines how the opening of K–12 schools is associated with the spread of COVID-19 using county-level panel data in the United States. As preliminary evidence, our event-study analysis indicates that cases and deaths in counties with in-person or hybrid opening relative to those with remote opening substantially increased after the school opening date, especially for counties without any mask mandate for staff. Our main analysis uses a dynamic panel data model for case and death growth rates, where we control for dynamically evolving mitigation policies, past infection levels, and additive county-level and state-week “fixed” effects. This analysis shows that an increase in visits to both K–12 schools and colleges is associated with a subsequent increase in case and death growth rates. The estimates indicate that fully opening K–12 schools with in-person learning is associated with a 5 (SE = 2) percentage points increase in the growth rate of cases. We also find that the association of K–12 school visits or in-person school openings with case growth is stronger for counties that do not require staff to wear masks at schools. These findings support policies that promote masking and other precautionary measures at schools and giving vaccine priority to education workers.

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Attribution 4.0 International