Schools without mask mandate 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks: CDC study

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that schools in two Arizona counties that didn’t require universal masking were 3.5 times more likely to endure COVID-19 outbreaks than schools with mask mandates. 

Out of the 191 schools in Maricopa and Pima counties that experienced outbreaks by the end of August, 59.2 percent did not have a mask requirement, compared to 8.4 percent that required masks from the start of the school year. 

Almost a third of outbreaks occurred in schools that implemented mask mandates after the school year began.

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The results support the argument to require masks in schools to reduce transmission, at a time when the controversial debate has turned political and bled into ongoing court battles.

In the study, the researchers defined an outbreak as when a school had two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff within a two-week period and at least seven days after the school year began. The schools that had outbreaks within seven days were excluded from the study.

The analysis involved 999 schools in the counties, with 21 percent having a mask requirement since the beginning of the school year, more than 30 percent adding one later and 48 percent not mandating masks at all. 

The CDC also released an additional study on masking in schools, finding that counties with school mask mandates experienced lower increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates than counties without school mask requirements.

The counties without mask mandates in schools recorded an average change of 34.85 cases per 100,000 children younger than 18. But counties with these requirements documented an average change of 16.32 cases per 100,000 children.

The CDC cautioned that the study analyzed 16.5 percent of counties, so the findings might not be generalizable to the entire nation.  

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Still, both studies align with the CDC’s recommendations for all students, teachers and staff older than age 2 to wear masks indoors to prevent viral spread, regardless of their vaccination status. 

But at least eight states have banned schools from requiring masks for students and staff, leaving some districts to decide whether to defy the state government in order to institute mask requirements.

Following Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Judge sides with Tennessee families in mask mandate fight GOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates MORE’s (R) executive order, the Florida Department of Education has already withheld funding from some school districts, including Alachua County Public Schools. 

The Department of Education declared on Thursday that it gave almost $148,000 in funding to Alachua County Public Schools to reimburse them for funding withheld by the state due to the mask requirements.