New Study: Genomic Sequencing Is Effective for Understanding SAR-CoV-2 Transmission
A new study came out in JAMA entitled “Examination of SARS-CoV-2 In-Class Transmission at a Large Urban University With Public Health Mandates Using Epidemiologic and Genomic Methodology.”
The objective of the study was to determine IF in-class instruction without any physical distancing, but with other health mitigation strategies (including masks) in place, is a risk for driving SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
“More than 600,000 PCR tests were done throughout the semester, with 896 tests showing detectable disease. There were over 850 cases of Covid infection identified through weekly surveillance testing of all students and faculty on campus during the fall 2021 semester. With more than 140,000 in-person class events and a total student population of 33,000, ONLY 9 instances of potential in-class transmission were identified, accounting for only 0.0045% of all classroom meetings. “
Prior to the start of the study, all buildings were inspected and received upgraded filtration when applicable. Settings were also adjusted to increase frequency of fresh air exchanges. Contact tracing with surveillance testing was employed.
The disease burden in the surrounding community was also significant during the study period.
What is quite interesting is that the study included the sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 positive swabs. Full-length genomes for each sample were then assembled. Nucleotide substitutions, insertions and deletions were identified. Lineage assignment for each genome was then carried out.
For each in-classroom potential transmission, the SARS-CoV-2 genome was analyzed. Seven of nine potential transmission events pairs were determined to not be from classroom transmission. Without getting into the scientific genome weeds, it simply means that having more than 3 nucleotide differences indicated that the transmission did NOT take place in the classroom setting.
Therefore, the study concluded that the epidemiology and genome sequencing served as the tool for understanding the overall disease transmission safety in this classroom setting. Using mask mandates, along with vaccine mandates, regular surveillance testing and enhanced air filtration, “in-person learning was NOT contributing to the overall spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the campus community. Therefore our in-person classroom can drastically mitigate the transmission of disease using vaccines, and NPI interventions such as air filtration, surveillance testing, and masking. “
Confirmatory studies are always appropriate in order to provide added evidence to the hypothesis in the initial study. Here is a confirmatory comment from a physician at Duke University:
“Same at Duke. We sequenced every case, so we know where transmission happened. My colleagues who work on Covid control tell me that with universal indoor masking & a vaccination requirement, there were 0 documented cases of classroom transmission. Public health for the win .”
There has been far too much disinformation coming from the right on this issue. The Dan Cox Campaign has led with the disinformation, as well as inexperienced “health experts” with outdated data. We have to remember that science is not static, it is dynamic and ever-evolving. What science knows now compared to ten years ago is critical for managing any pandemic. If the science person you are following has no experience OR is using outdated information, that person is not doing his job. No politician should be promoting anything in regards to pandemic management.
Dan Cox would have us believe that genome sequencing is bogus? Not necessary? An invasion? I don’t believe that Dan Cox even understands genome sequencing, as he certainly did not understand what I did with NGS in oncology. (BTW, genetic sequencing is the future of finding mutations in your DNA, providing the most personalized approach to managing a disease.)
Let’s see if Dan Cox can explain this one:
Looks complicated, doesn’t it? It is. That’s why we leave this discussion to the doctors and scientists with experience and the capability to make our healthcare decisions. We do NOT leave it to the politicians.
Will Dan Cox protect our children in the classroom? I think not.
The goal is not to “keep schools open.”
The goal is to maximize the number of days kids attend them!
--Jeremy Faust, MD