As children are getting ready to go back to school, many parents are wondering about the safety of activities they previously took for granted, like riding the school bus. We asked epidemiologist Dr. Xiaoyan Song about the risks of getting COVID-19 from the school bus and what precautions parents, educators and bus drivers can take to ensure their students’ safety.

Can students get COVID from riding the school bus?

Research has shown that the risk of getting COVID-19 from riding a school bus is low when basic precautionary measures — such as masking, only allowing two kids per seat and leaving the windows open — are taken.

Do you think the highly transmissible Delta variant will change these findings?

Based upon the current data, the Delta variant could increase a student’s chance of coming across someone with the virus on the school bus. However, if the student continues to practice basic protective measures including masking and social distancing, their chance of getting the virus on a school bus remains very low. Recognizing that there is still much to learn about this new variant, we would recommend everyone to be vigilant and stay informed should new information become available.

What can parents, educators and bus drivers do to help keep our buses COVID-free?

First and foremost, if your child is 12 years or older, get them vaccinated. This is the ultimate way to cut off virus transmission and to keep everyone safe wherever anyone goes.

Parents should also be mindful of their student’s well-being. If your child doesn’t feel well or your family is in quarantine, your child should stay home and not ride the school bus or go to school.

Educators can help by becoming familiar with local regulations and virus activities in the communities where their students reside and serving as role models by wearing a mask if they’re riding the bus and not coming to work if they’re sick or in quarantine. It’s also important for educators to develop procedures that parents and students need to comply with on the bus — such as keeping the windows open, sitting in assigned seats and wearing masks.

Finally, bus drivers can help maintain a COVID-free environment by serving as role models — wearing masks and not coming to work if they are sick or in quarantine. They should also enforce pre-established safety protocols on the bus and maintain/optimize the bus’s ventilation system.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Xiaoyan Song Xiaoyan Song, PhD, MBBS, MSc, is the Director of the Infection Control/Epidemiology at Children's National Hospital and an Investigator in the Children's National Research Institute.

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