Why Some Schools Close as Covid-19 Cases Rise When Others Stay Open

Leslie Brody and Yoree Koh:

In New York City, when 3% of tests for Covid-19 are positive, schools close. In Indianapolis, the trigger is 13%.

As the coronavirus pandemic surges, cities and school districts—even those located near each other—are making closure decisions based on differing criteria. Nationwide, the triggers for shutting classrooms vary widely, as do the sets of authorities who make the calls.

Complicating the decision: The understanding of the virus has been changing since schools across the country closed in the spring and sent more than 50 million students to remote learning. Since then, some studies show that schools aren’t major contributors to community spread. Some researchers say decisions to close often depend on a community’s density, transportation patterns, resources for safety steps, political atmosphere and local risk tolerance, as well as trends in the pandemic.