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NC students most likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during lunch period, study finds

Researchers found that 92% of COVID-19 exposure in North Carolina schools happened when students were allowed to remove their masks indoors.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A study on COVID-19 transmission in North Carolina schools found that over 90% of exposures happened when students were not required to wear masks

Researchers with the ABC Science Collaborative and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services collected data from five school districts and one charter school. All of the schools they studied had mask mandates in place. 

The study found that kids were most likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during lunch when students were allowed to be near others indoors without their masks. Researchers found 92% of exposures involved "unmasked close contact," with 39% happening during lunch and 13% being traced to athletics. However, athletic exposures accounted for 50% of positive tests during the study. 

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In total, 367 students participated in the study. Researchers found zero cases of transmission from a study participant to another student or staff member. 

The study found that North Carolina's "test-to-stay" approach for COVID-19 exposure in schools saved 1,628 days of in-person learning, with participating students using 136 days of quarantine compared to an expected 1,764 days. 

Click here to view the study's complete findings.

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.