Chicago's top doctor said Friday the city's private and parochial schools have done a good job of following safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as she signaled support of Chicago Public Schools' plan to resume in-person instruction for some students.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, in particular, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has seen coronavirus cases in 31 of its schools - out of approximately 20,000 students and more than 2,700 teachers and staff members.
"Chicago students who have returned to the classrooms in these parochial and private schools, have actually had a lower rate of COVID, about half the rate detected than their counterparts in the community," Arwady stated.
Arwady said Thursday afternoon "this is not a good week for COVID-19," as the city of Chicago saw a week-to-week case increase of 30%. When it comes to COVID-19 in schools, in most instances, public health officials haven't found evidence of community transmission, according to the doctor.
"The data shows us that when the proper precautions are taken, transmission in these settings is rare," she stated.
The CDPH team, the health commissioner said, has put a special focus on investigating cases among students attending classes in-person.
Contrary to what health officials feared earlier this year, several studies have found that with proper precautions in place, daycares and schools haven't been a significant source of COVID-19 transmission.
"Where we have seen multiple cases at a school, for example, it is most commonly because siblings attend that school," Arwady said. "We've seen much higher rates of spread in settings outside of schools."
CPS began its new school year with remote instruction Sept. 8 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In early August, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the decision to start the school year remotely was "rooted in public health," but at the time said the district sought to establish a hybrid learning model in the second quarter.
CPS said in a statement Friday that it plans to begin its phased reopening with the "most vulnerable students in pre-k and intensive and moderate cluster programs who encounter significant challenges participating in remote learning without the support of a guardian, which further exacerbates inequities."