CDC studies confirm mask-wearing in schools reduces spread of COVID-19
Two new studies, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are offering robust evidence of universal mask-wearing practices in schools reducing rates of COVID-19 outbreaks. The research conducted across July and August delivers insights into how the Delta variant can spread in children.
The first study investigated COVID-19 outbreaks in around 1,000 Arizona public schools across the first six weeks of the 2021/22 academic year. J. Mac McCullough, co-author on the study from the University of Arizona, says the early start to Arizona’s school year makes it a perfect bellwether for the rest of the country.
“The school year starts very early in Arizona, in mid-July, so we had the advantage of being able to get an early look at data for the new school year a bit sooner than was possible for the rest of the country, which was important, because of the transmission of the Delta variant,” McCullough said to The New York Times.
The research found over the first six weeks of the school year 24 percent of those schools with no mask mandate experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. This compared to just eight percent of those schools with universal mask mandates.
“After adjusting for potential described confounders, the odds of a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak in schools without a mask requirement were 3.5 times higher than those in schools with an early mask requirement,” the researchers write in the newly published study.
The second study took a different angle on the subject. It looked at pediatric COVID-19 cases across the United States and examined caseload increases after the school year began in counties with school mask mandates and counties with no school mask mandates. The researchers only included counties where all schools within shared similar mask requirements.
The final analysis included 520 counties across the United States. The findings reveal those counties with school mask requirements experienced smaller spikes in pediatric COVID-19 cases compared to those counties without school mask requirements.
Building on the evidence for universal mask wearing in schools the CDC also recently presented a super-spreader case study in a Californian elementary school. The case study describes a scenario where an unvaccinated teacher removed their mask for an extended period during a class and subsequently infected 12 of the 24 children in the room.
“The introduction of the virus into the classroom by a teacher who worked in school while she was both symptomatic and unvaccinated and who was unmasked when reading aloud to a class resulted in cases within the classroom, across the school, and among families of students and staff in the community,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a recent White House press briefing. “Universal masks in schools work to prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of children bringing the virus home to others who are vulnerable. This is not forever; this is for now.”