Sarah Reingewirtz / MediaNews Group via Getty Images
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reinforces an old message: COVID-19 is less widespread in schools where teachers and staff wear masks. Still, the study arrives when states and school districts across the country began to reduce or simply discard their disguise needs for both staff and students.
With most school-age children still too young to qualify for vaccination, Friday’s survey is the latest salvo in a smoldering battle between public health officials and politicians – and parents have lined up on both sides.
The new study comes from Georgia and compares COVID-19 infection rates in 169 K-5 schools. Some schools required teachers, staff, and sometimes students to wear masks; some are not.
Between November 16 and December 11, 2020, researchers found that the infection rate was 37% lower in schools where teachers and staff had to wear masks. The difference between schools that did and did not require students to wear masks was not statistically significant.
This is another study that shows that masking, among other mitigation efforts, “can reduce infections and ultimately save lives,” says Dr. Sean O’Leary, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado and vice president of the Infectious Diseases Committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
O’Leary points to previous CDC study, Florida school, which also found a “strong association with student mask requirements and lower rates of infection in students.”
Like any study, the Friday edition has warnings. Only 12% of schools invited to share their data did so. And it’s always worth remembering: Correlation is not causality. Still, the results offer an important warning to states and school districts that are now repealing their requirements for masks in schools, especially for adults: It’s safer if you don’t.
The latest, and perhaps broadest, effort to change school camouflage policies comes from Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott betrayed executive order On Tuesday, all mandates of masks in state public schools are banned. After June 4, the order states, “Any student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor will not be required to wear a face mask.”
For Abbott and many opponents of the masked mandate, the move is to strike a balance between security and freedom. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 as we defend the freedom of Texans to choose whether to disguise themselves or not,” he said. he said announcing the order.
Zeph Capo, head of the American Federation of Teachers in Texas, called the move “unscrupulous.” in a statement. “The governor’s new verdict takes a full approach to addressing what is still extremely dangerous for some Texans – going back to school unmasked.”
And Texas is not alone. On Thursday, Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds also signed a law banning schools from requiring masks. Justification, similar“I am proud to be the governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual freedoms,” Reynolds said in a statement.
“Whether a child wears a mask at school is a decision that should be left only to the parents of the students” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster last week since he issued an executive order allowing parents to exclude their children from the mask requirement at school.
Public health experts quickly sounded the alarm.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have seen tragic consequences when politics begins to play a role in public health decision-making. And to me, this kind of maneuver smells like politics – banning demands that are ultimately there to save lives,” O’Leary says. “A series of evidence shows us that masks work.”
A dr. Aaron Milstone, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins, compares the ban on issuing masks to a variable speed limit.
“Unfortunately, with infectious diseases, the decisions I make affect someone else,” Milstone says. “It would be like saying, ‘You can drive 55 miles per hour if you think it’s safe for you, but if someone else thinks they can safely drive 90 miles per hour, their choice can risk your life.’
While the CDC did it recently reduce your masking guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated, the agency also repeated that schools should continue to require universal disguise, at least until the end of the current school year. Although there was one vaccine approved for use for ages 12 to 15 years, these children will not be considered fully vaccinated for another month.
Milstone says it’s simply too early to talk about schools without disguise. “While vaccines do not qualify for all children, it is difficult to abandon practices that we know work best to prevent the spread of COVID.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Officer, he told CNBC earlier this week that it is conceivable that the CDC could recommend that high and high schools be without masks in the fall. If, that is, a sufficient number of students older than 12 years are vaccinated.