Yes, Gov. DeSantis: Studies Do Show That Schools Are Curbing Covid-19
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The debate over whether schools should enforce mask wearing is still raging from a legal and political perspective. However, scientists agree that masks can help to stop the spread of coronavirus at school.
There are still non-believers, but...
A spokesperson for Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis was asked by NPR to comment on a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on school mask mandates. NPR was told by a spokesperson that "Forced-masking all children 2 years old and older has any effect on school safety vis a-vis COVID-19" is not based on data and does not reflect a scientific consensus. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte also expressed doubts last week. He called the existing research "inconclusive" last week and announced a new rule encouraging schools to allow parents final say on whether or not their children wear masks.
The research is conclusive
Numerous studies have been done over the past year to show that students can be significantly less likely to transmit HIV from one student to another.
One study from Wood County, Wisconsin found that schools that required masking had a 37 percent lower rate of COVID-19 infection than those in the surrounding communities. A second study was done in Salt Lake County, Utah last winter. It found that students who wore masks helped to keep the coronavirus spread in schools down to 1%, even though COVID-19 cases were increasing in the community.
In all these cases, schools also used other protection strategies, which experts strongly recommend adding to your arsenal, such as physical distancing or opening windows.
Studies show that masking the virus can make a difference in preventing it from spreading even when other measures are not being taken. This was the conclusion of the ABC Science Collaborative. The major research initiative involved nearly 1,000,000 students from over 100 North Carolina school districts and 14 charter schools. The study found that schools were protected from the coronavirus by adopting universal masking policies.
"The science clearly shows that masking is an effective strategy for preventing within-school transmission when COVID-19 circulating is and when vaccine is not yet available to all children," Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman (co-chair of ABC Science Collaborative) said in a statement analyzing those findings.
Even with the Delta variant, there is a low spread within schools
Fortunately, the majority of these studies were done before the highly contagious delta variant spread across the U.S. Unpublished data from the North Carolina summer school session shows that delta spread more quickly in surrounding communities. However, due to universal masking of other mitigation strategies, the spread rate within schools was below 3% even though the disease was more prevalent, according to Dr. Ibukun Kalu of Duke, who is also a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and a member the ABC Science Collaborative research group.
Proper masking is crucial, however.
Schools could suffer if they don't mask, according to Julie Swann, a North Carolina State University professor and department head who is also the leader of a COVID-19 forecasting group funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Swann's lab has done a modeling study that shows that the delta variant could infect more children than 75 percent without any other intervention or policies. This is despite the fact that the vaccine was not administered to mask the risk.
It's quite shocking, isn't it? Swann says. Swann says, "And I'm a parent to two school-age [children].
Swann claims that her projection of Swann's model is "pretty close" to a worst case scenario. This would be a scenario where children are wearing poorly fitting masks that don’t filter well and mask wearing can’t be enforced reliably. It doesn't have be this way.
Schools may still experience outbreaks due to delta's infectious nature but they will be far less than if proper masking and other interventions are in place, she said.