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Study finds no spread of COVID-19 on school buses with drivers, students masked up

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School teamed up to study how COVID-19 transmits on school buses ahead of the academic year.

NORFOLK, Va. — Promising results of a study conducted by Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School might give relief to families that are sending children back to school this year.

Dr. Dana Ramirez,  the Associate Professor of Pediatrics with CHKD and EVMS, said she and a team of researchers wanted to look into transmission rates on school buses to help determine whether or not it is safe for students this upcoming school year.

"It's reasonable for parents to have some concerns and be worried," said Ramirez, citing one of the reasons why she wanted to conduct this research.

The study is titled, "COVID-19 Transmission during Transportation of 1st to 12th Grade Students: Experience of an Independent School in Virginia." Researchers looked between the months of September 2020 to March 2021. The study does not include the more contagious Delta variant.

It studied 462 riders across only 15 buses. It found COVID-19 transmits significantly lower than community transmissions, as long as students and drivers are masked up and the bus windows are cracked for proper ventilation. Each rider on the bus was spread two and a half feet apart with the younger students in the front and older in the back. Students who were siblings were paired together.

CHKD and EVMS also wanted to find if more bus drivers were needed to help spread more students apart.

"The busing system was truly a problem for some schools in a sense that there's not enough buses or enough bus drivers to double the amount to space students out as much as need be," said Ramirez. 

Ramirez said the results of the study were surprisingly promising: "We had no transmission from student to student, no transmission from student to adult, no transmission from adult to student or adult to adult. With absolutely no transmission, we were a little bit surprised there wasn't a single case."

Ramirez made it clear the Delta variant is not included in this study. She said she wants to look into how the variant plays a part, but for now, with their current findings, she feels confident students are safe as long as they mask up and have proper ventilation on buses.

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