Study: Spokane COVID transmission rate too high for safe return to class

SPOKANE, Wash. — Parents are growing more frustrated as their children remain out of the classroom going into the next semester in January, but just how safe is it for kids to be in the class?

A new study from the University of Washington says not safe at all. Researchers at UW say schools are safe for kids if the virus community spread is low, which it isn’t right now in Spokane County.

In the last two weeks, the infection rate has been 771 per 100,000 people. Experts consider it “low” at 5 per 100,000. Researchers say having in-person learning doesn’t increase the spread of COVID-19 in places with low to moderate levels of the virus.

“But if you are in a county that has high pre-existing rates of infection then it does look like it is more dangerous to have the school open in person,” said Dan Goldhaber the Co-Author of the study.

While the rates continue to be higher than when the research was originally done, some parents feel their children need the in-person learning experience as soon as possible.

“Specifically like my son, he was also a straight A student, he had this like thirst for knowledge and he started doing this virtual learning and now he hates school which is very upsetting,” said Stefanie Soss, a mother who has two children in the West Valley School District.

Local health experts say they are cautiously optimistic about the prospect of getting students back in the classroom, but the infection rates must first get better.

“I’m very concerned about the mental health, behavioral and performance impact of the isolation,” said Dr. Frank Velasquez with SRHD.

The lack of in-person learning is the driving force behind Soss considering pulling her kids out of the school district and into the East Valley School District, where students are in the classroom more often.

“I think it is very urgent for all kids not only for their education purposes but their social interaction, their mental health. Those things are lacking,” said Soss.

Researchers also found there isn’t much evidence of spread in schools when there was less than 76% of students in class.

RELATED: Report: In-person learning not linked to significant COVID-19 transmission, dependent on community spread