Kids in masks getting on a school bus

School buses can be safe modes of transportation during the pandemic, even in areas with high caseloads of the coronavirus. That is the finding of a new study from EVMS and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

In the study, researchers followed a local private school that ran 15 nearly full buses with two students per seat during a seven-month period, from August 2020 to March 2021. In that time, 37 students and two adults at the school contracted COVID-19, but no bus riders got the virus from the infected students. 

All passengers wore masks and bus windows were kept cracked regardless of the weather.

Dana Ramirez, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and a co-author of the study, says the study, published in the Journal of School Health, shows how mitigation techniques such as mask requirements and assigned seats can reduce transmission.

Ramirez was joined in the research by Martin Klinkhammer, MD, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, and Leah Rowland, MD, Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics. The trio initiated the study after recognizing the need for research on school transportation during the pandemic.

“We’ve got families out there who are just not able to drive their kids to school each day for multiple reasons, and that makes the bus transportation even more crucial,” Dr. Ramirez recently told The Virginian-Pilot.

She adds that while the study was conducted before the advent of the highly transmissible delta variant, it still provides important insight.

“We know that masking works to help prevent the spread of disease, and we know that ventilation helps to prevent the spread of disease,” Dr. Ramirez says. “I certainly expect that both of these things will be useful in preventing the spread of the delta variant.”