A new CDC study of a school district in Georgia found that teachers caused at least half of the COVID outbreaks in those elementary schools, and called the vaccination of educators "critical"
Students and teacher wearing masks in classroom
Students and teacher wearing masks in classroom
| Credit: Getty

A new study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found COVID-19 outbreaks at schools often originate with teachers.

The findings, published Monday, said "that educators play an important role in in-school transmission," citing "an investigation of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in a Georgia school district during Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 22, 2021."

The investigation, researchers say, "identified nine clusters of COVID-19 cases involving 13 educators and 32 students at six elementary schools" which, according to CNN, were located in Atlanta suburbs.

"Two clusters involved probable educator-to-educator transmission that was followed by educator-to-student transmission in classrooms and resulted in approximately one half (15 of 31) of school-associated cases," they add.

According to researchers, "Educators might play a central role in in-school transmission networks."

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Students wearing mask for protect corona virus or covid-19
Students wearing masks at school
| Credit: Getty

They further advise, "Preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections through multifaceted school mitigation measures and COVID-19 vaccination of educators is a critical component of preventing in-school transmission."

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday that "The two main reasons for the spread of COVID-19 in these schools were inadequate physical distancing and mask adherence," CNN reports.

"In the schools, physical distancing of at least 6 feet was not possible because of the high number of students in class, as well as because of classroom layouts," she explained.

Walensky also said that the results of the study "highlight the importance of scaling up vaccination efforts across the country, including the continued need to prioritize teachers and other school staff for vaccination as part of the frontline essential workers, consistent with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices."

Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccination
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
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Earlier this month, President Joe Biden touched on a troubling exodus of women from the workforce over the past year and the fact that millions of children are still out of physical school. He agreed with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell's question, telling her "it is a national emergency — it genuinely is a national emergency."

Speaking about the statistics that show that roughly 20 million American children have been out of a classroom for at least a year, Biden, 78, spoke in his CBS interview about the need to reopen schools "safely," with precautions.

"I think it's time for schools to reopen safely. Safely," he told O'Donnell. "You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked. Our CDC commissioner is going to be coming out with science-based judgment, within I think as early as Wednesday, to lay out what the minimum requirements are."

"I think about the price so many of my grandkids and your kids are going to pay for not having had the chance to finish whatever it was ... I think they're going through a lot, these kids," Biden added.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.