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Schools reopening - are teachers at risk?

With schools reopening and claims of lower risk associated with COVID-19 in children on the rise, are we putting enough thought into the adults who look after these children? Jasmine Belfiore breaks down a recent study from the US which found that one in four teachers are at risk of developing severe illness if infected.


Face-to-face education is essential for the development, welfare and health of children. While children are generally considered low risk of developing severe infection they can transmit the disease to potentially vulnerable adults.


To determine the risk level of reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic on teachers and adults living with school-aged children in the US.

Study design

Analysis of data from the US 2018 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of adults without a teaching based role, 592 adults with teaching roles and 5682 adults living with school aged children.


One in four teachers (24%, or about 1.47 million people), have a condition that puts them at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus


Without appropriate measures, reopening schools will put millions of at-risk adults in danger of developing COVID-19


Survey could not identify school staff who were not teachers or day-care workers.

Data predates the pandemic.

Some risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms were not identified meaning this estimate is likely too low.

Different risk factors have varying severity levels.


Gaffney AW, Himmelstein D, Woolhandler S. 'Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness Among Teachers and Adults Living With School-Aged Children' [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 21]. Ann Intern Med. 2020;10.7326/M20-5413. doi:10.7326/M20-5413

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