May 2022

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Health Capsule

Mandatory Masking in Schools Reduced COVID-19 Cases

The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, travels through the air in droplets. It’s spread when people cough, sneeze, or talk. As schools reopened, researchers have been looking at how best to keep kids safe. A new study found that mandatory masking reduces the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Researchers tracked COVID-19 infections within 61 school districts, grade 12 and lower. Six of the districts had optional masking policies during this time. Nine had partial masking policies. The other 46 required masking the whole time.

The study included more than 1.1 million students and 157,000 staff. It went from late July to mid-December of 2021. Researchers recorded when and where people caught COVID-19.

The team found 40,000 COVID-19 cases that were caught out in the community. They found about 3,100 cases that were caught at a school. Schools with mandatory masking had 72% less COVID-19 cases caught at school than those with optional masking.

During the study, Delta was the main variant being spread in the United States. Omicron spread afterward. But based on all available data, the CDC recommends indoor masking whenever there are high levels of COVID-19.

“These findings show that school masking remains a critical preventive measure in times with high community infection rates,” says Dr. Danny Benjamin at Duke University, who co-led the study.