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What we can learn from other countries as students go back to school

DETROIT – With the deadline to make decisions about returning to school quickly approaching across the United States, many experts are looking overseas for guidance.

More than 20 countries reopened their schools in June and some -- including Taiwan and Sweden -- never fully closed them.

In recent weeks -- hundreds of millions of students across the globe have returned to school, but almost every country is doing it differently.

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Some have imposed strict limits on contact -- schools in Denmark started out with pods of four or five children.

South Korean schools opened, then closed and then reopened with temperature checks, plastic dividers and masks.

Some schools stayed open as infections cropped up, but in Israel, when outbreaks swept through more than a dozen schools two weeks after opening, they were shut. The country’s overall infection rate was also on the rise and that’s key.

Science Magazine studied reopening strategies around the world and found some common patterns.

Effective tools included keeping student groups small, requiring masks and using some social distancing.

There is still great debate over the rate at which children can transmit the virus to each other and to adults.

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A study from Berlin suggested children may be just as infectious as adults, but several other studies have found that children do not appear to play a big role in spreading the virus.

In one study in Geneva, researchers found that of 39 children infected with the virus, in only three cases was another child the first suspected case.

A study in China that followed 68 children with the virus and found that 65 likely got it from adults.

In another study in France, a boy exposed more than 80 schoolmates. Not one contracted the virus.

Researchers stressed, the risk will also depend on how widely the virus is circulating in a given community... And how quickly cases can be identified.

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