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News Article

Teachers, Parents Concerned About In-Person Classes

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 08/06/2021 - 17:44

Mexico’s official back to school date is Aug. 30, 2021, and classes are expected to be in-person. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that this is a priority and that it should happen even if there is “rain, thunder or lightning.” However, parents and teachers are concerned that this decision is being made during the COVID-19 third wave.

López Obrador said that there are “small outbreaks” but that the situation is not as concerning as the first two waves of contagion. He said understands their concerns but claims that remote education “can no longer be done, we are in time to recover what was lost in this area and especially what has to do with social, emotional issues for children and young people.”

Returning to in-person classes might be less dangerous than expected, but the science is still out. The CDC’s “Transmission of COVID-19 in Kindergarten Schools and Early Care and Education Programs” report, suggested that the incidence rate among children and adolescents was lower than among adults. This report reviewed several studies conducted early during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the lower incidence rates are associated with children having fewer opportunities for exposure (due to school, daycare and activity closures) and a lower probability of being tested. Studies that have systematically tested children and adolescents, irrespective of symptoms, for acute COVID-19 infection or prior infection have found their rates of infection can be comparable, and in some settings higher, than in adults. The CDC also shared that while compared with adults, children and adolescents infected COVID-19 are more commonly asymptomatic or have mild and non-specific symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others.

The CDC compared different country cases of opened and closed schools and found that outbreaks in schools can occur, but multiple studies have shown that transmission within school settings is typically lower than or at least similar to levels of community transmission, when prevention strategies are in place in schools. “The evidence to date suggests that staff-to-student and student-to-student transmission are not the primary means of exposure to COVID-19 among infected children.  Several studies have also concluded that students are not the primary sources of exposure to COVID-19 among adults in school setting.”

Nevertheless, parents and teachers do not only fear contagion at schools, but also on public transportation. Mexico’s mobility is highly reliant on it, especially on the capital of the country and the Mexican Valley in general, which has recently exceeded what the Ministry of Health thought would be worst state of the pandemic’s third wave.  

The 2020 Population and Housing Census found that on average 25 percent of the country's students use some type of public transport to get to school, equal to almost 8 million students. However, this indicator varies between entities. In Mexico City the percentage doubles: almost half of the students use public transport (48 percent). In Chihuahua and Oaxaca, on the other hand, only 15 percent of students use public transport.

Also, the percentage of students who use public transport increases with age, 7 percent of kindergarten and elementary students travel by public transport versus the 44 percent of high school students and 63 percent of adults.

A study by Xavier Querol on the risks of contagion on public transportation found that, in the UK, traces of the COVID-19 viral genome can be detected within public transport vehicles, both on surfaces inside the vehicle and in the ambient air. “Although in the case of this study evidence for concentrations of the viral genome was fragmentary, generally weak, and the chances of infectivity considered to be extremely low, our data identified a need for tightening up cleaning procedures.”

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst