Universal masking has been one of the primary tools that public health agencies and the medical community in general rely on to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. When the delta variant began causing spikes in cases across the country, medical authorities made it clear how important it is to mask up, especially when in-person schooling resumed. However, a number of places continued to ignore the call and even turned down the mask mandates.

Outbreaks In Areas Sans School Mask Mandates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented three new studies in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last week that showed the likelihood of having outbreaks in places where indoor masking by students and faculty is not required. The public health agency also found that pediatric transmissions rose twice as quickly in counties without mask mandates compared to areas where masking in public places is required.

One of the studies indicated that schools in two of Arizona’s most populous counties without mask mandates had a higher chance of experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks compared to areas where educational institutions required their students and staff to wear masks since the first day of physical classes started.

The second study found that areas with school mask mandates had lower pediatric COVID-19 transmission rates compared to counties where students were not required to wear masks in school. Meanwhile, the third study focused on the pandemic-related school closures and discovered that 96% of the 999 public schools covered in the study were unable to remain open for in-person learning.

Significance Of The New Studies

In a press release published on its website, the CDC said that the studies reiterate the importance of wearing masks amid the ongoing global health crisis. Universal masking still plays a major role in the prevention strategies that the agency recommended for schools as physical classes started to resume.

Based on the findings of the second study, the CDC said that the lower average pediatric infections in school districts with mask mandates can positively impact the surrounding communities of the academic institutions. Conversely, school districts that do not require face masks would prove to be a burden on their local health care systems as cases are very likely to shoot up.

The CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools lists vaccination as the leading prevention strategy to hamper transmissions and end the pandemic. But given the stalling vaccination rates, the public health agency is pushing for universal indoor masking and social distancing as the primary tools to help reduce transmissions between students. Other strategies found on the list include screening testing, proper handwashing, cleaning and disinfection, as well as contact tracing.