Schools With Mask Mandates Had Fewer COVID-19 Outbreaks

A new study from the CDC found that the number of childhood COVID-19 cases increased more in counties where schools did not require masking than in those areas where universal masking was mandatory.In areas without mask mandates, there were an average of about 35 new pediatric cases per 100,000 children.This compares to about 16 new pediatric cases per 100,000 children per day in counties requiring masks at school.

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that mandates for school masks can protect children in classrooms from COVID-19.

According to the CDC study, the number of child cases increased significantly in counties where schools did not require masking in the classroom than in those areas where universal masking was mandatory.

The CDC studied pediatric COVID-19 cases from 520 counties where mask rules were consistent across all schools and applied to all students or none of them.

The CDC adjusted the findings to control childhood vaccination coverage at this level, but excluded teacher vaccination coverage and school test data.

In areas without mask mandates, there were an average of about 35 new pediatric cases per 100,000 children each day over a 2-week period, according to the study results.

This compares to about 16 new pediatric cases per 100,000 children per day in counties requiring masks at school.

dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, director of global health at Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, New York, told Healthline that the Delta variant is a potential factor in these findings.

“Delta has increased infections in children,” he said. “There are higher levels of virus in respiratory secretions, and this is a big difference in children compared to Alpha.”

“There is no doubt that counties without school mask requirements have a greater increase in transmission than those schools with mask requirements,” said Dr. Henry Bernstein, pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.

He added that there are lower daily cases of pediatric COVID-19 in those schools that use masks, as well as other, non-pharmacological interventions.

“Such as ventilation in the school, proper cohorting, social distancing, screening of those who are symptomatic — and most importantly, highlighting the importance of vaccination,” he said.

According to the CDC study, the requirements for school masks, combined with other prevention strategies, including COVID-19 vaccination, are critical to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

According to researchers, the findings are subject to limitations, including:

This was an ecological study, a kind of observational study that can’t prove causation. Researchers say the number and rates of pediatric COVID-19 cases included all cases in children and adolescents under the age of 18, and a later analysis will focus on cases in school-age children and adolescents. Vaccination rates of county-level teachers and school test data were not checked in their analysis, which will be done in future research. They used a small sample size of provinces for the analysis, so the findings cannot be generalized.

When asked what parents with children in schools without mask requirements can do to protect them, Cioe-Peña advised: “In order of decreasing effectiveness: Lobby for rule changes. Go to a neighborhood that requires masking. Mask their children anyway.”

Bernstein noted that we should use “all the tools at our disposal”.

“I think teachers and other staff in schools should recognize that children can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he said.

He stressed that children can have symptomatic COVID-19 disease and eventually require hospitalization, pointing out that “children can also develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).”

According to Bernstein, it is important to teach the correct mask use, but parents must lead by example.

“I think they can also consider [using] sometimes funny mask designs,” Bernstein said.

“But I think parents should wear a role model mask and teach kids not to touch their faces,” he continued. “Encourage them to wash their hands well and to take physical distance.”

Bernstein, who is a direct member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), said there are many steps to get approval.

“Vaccine manufacturers present their formal study data for different age groups to the FDA,” he said. “There is an independent FDA advisory committee, known as VRBPAC, that makes recommendations to approve or approve an emergency vaccine.”

Then, he said, the FDA recommendation goes to ACIP, which “makes clinical considerations for the U.S. population based on the evidence base of science, implementation, and fairness.”

For those impatient to protect their children, he warned that it takes time to review the available science and data.

“Because we want to ensure that the safety, immune response and efficacy of these vaccines are carefully considered,” he explained.

However, Bernstein also said the timeline seems to be moving fast.

“I expect a lot of activity in the next 4 to 8 weeks with these different vaccine products for different age groups, especially younger children,” he said.

A new CDC study found that schools without masking requirements experienced significantly more cases of COVID-19 in students.

Experts say the Delta variant has increased the number of cases in children and caused a much higher level of virus in their respiratory tract.

They also say that in addition to using masks, we should use every means at our disposal to prevent the transmission of disease, including social distancing, hand washing and vaccination as soon as it is available to younger children.

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