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Masking Still Works, Even With Kids

October 8, 2021  ||  Matt Albasi

Last week, the CDC released three reports showing the impact of COVID-19 on children’s health and learning. While all the reports are worth a read, we’ve provided the “Cliffs notes” version below. 

A photo showing a children's face mask and some toys
Photo by Ivan Radic licensed under creative commons

The first report aimed to understand how the pandemic has affected in-person schooling so far this school year. They found that 96% of schools are open for in-person learning. Despite this promising stat, the report also found that around 1,800 out of about 120,000 schools have had to halt in-person learning due to outbreaks, which affected about one million students and nearly 60,000 teachers across 44 states. 

The second and third reports aimed to understand whether school mask mandates are correlated with fewer COVID cases in schools. The short answer is: yes, masking works. 

One report looked at counties nationwide and compared the changes in pediatric COVID cases before and after school began. They found that in counties with school mask mandates, the average daily change in COVID cases among kids was significantly lower than in schools without the mandates (16 cases per 100k children per day, vs. 35 cases per 100k children per day).  While the study warns the findings may not be generalizable and cannot infer causation from the results, the direction of impact is clear. Masks mandates in schools likely mean fewer COVID cases in the community at large.

The final report examined two counties in Arizona to understand the odds of a COVID-19 outbreak at schools with or without mask mandates. The researchers found that an outbreak was 3.5 times as likely to occur at schools without a mask mandate compared to schools that had a mask mandate since the start of the school year. 

The CDC’s findings seem to bolster many of the results we saw from last school year: mask mandates help keep kids healthy. As we wait with baited breath for a verdict on use of the Pfizer COVID vaccine in children aged 5-11 (likely before Thanksgiving), this new data should be a salve for some of our worries. There is a method to help prevent the spread of COVID in school communities. It works. Mask up.

If you’d like to read the reports yourself you can find them here

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