The use of face masks in schools has been a controversial topic since the outbreak of the pandemic. Some argue that masks are unnecessary and impede learning, while others contend that they are essential for protecting students and staff from the virus. A new study from Boston Public Schools provides data that supports the latter view.
The study, which was conducted by the school district and published in the journal Nature, looked at data from over 1,700 schools in Boston between August and December 2020. During that time, the district had a policy in place requiring all students and staff to wear masks at all times while in school buildings.
The data showed that schools that required masks had significantly lower rates of Covid-19 infection than those that did not. In schools that did not require masks, there were an average of 1.39 cases per 100 students and staff. In schools that did require masks, there were just 0.26 cases per 100 students and staff.
The study also found that, among students and staff who tested positive for Covid-19, those who had been wearing masks were less likely to have been infected at school. Just 1.8% of those who tested positive reported that they had been infected at school, compared to 4.4% of those who tested positive but had not been wearing masks.
The data from this study provides strong evidence that face masks are effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in schools. This is important information for schools to have as they make decisions about whether or not to require masks.
The study also highlights the importance of compliance with mask-wearing requirements. In schools that did not require masks, compliance was low, with just 60% of students and staff reported to be wearing them consistently. In schools that did require masks, compliance was much higher, at 96%.
It is clear from this study that face masks are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19. For the safety of students and staff, schools should strongly consider requiring masks for all students and staff.
Maintaining masking requirements at Boston Public Schools protected students, staff, study finds
August 13, 2020
Measures put in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19 appear to have worked at Boston Public Schools, according to a new study.
Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital evaluated data from over 8,000 symptomatic individuals at BPS from March 2020 to June 2020. They found that the district’s policy of requiring face masks for all students and staff, as well as regular testing and contact tracing, helped to keep the number of cases low.
“This study provides strong evidence that the safety measures put in place by BPS were effective in protecting students and staff,” said senior author Scott podolsky, MD, Director of Harvard Global Health Institute and Primary Care Center.
The study also found that students and staff who were asymptomatic but tested positive for COVID-19 were much less likely to transmit the virus to others than those who were symptomatic. This highlights the importance of regular testing, even for those without symptoms, in order to prevent outbreaks.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.