Masks have been a cultural flash point since the pandemic’s start, and mask mandates in schools have been especially incendiary. Critics have argued that there is no strong evidence to prove that they slow the spread of Covid and that, in any case, children weren’t wearing the right kinds of masks or weren’t wearing them properly.
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Now a research paper details a so-called natural experiment that occurred when all but two school districts in the greater Boston area lifted mask requirements in the spring. Researchers took that opportunity to measure how students’ behaviour changed and its effect on the spread of Covid within schools.
The study found that students were much less likely to wear masks when they were no longer required. And when students didn’t wear masks, the spread of Covid increased. The researchers estimate that for every 10% increase in the proportion of students wearing them, the number of Covid cases decreased by 3%.
This is one of the first studies to measure the effect of masks in schools directly, and it provides strong evidence that covers do indeed slow the spread of Covid. It also underscores the importance of mask-wearing as a preventative measure, especially in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
In addition, the study found that students who wore masks were also less likely to have symptoms of Covid. This suggests that even if students become infected, wearing a mask may help reduce the severity of their illness.
The findings of this study should be taken into consideration by all schools as they make decisions about mask requirements for the upcoming school year. Masks should be mandatory in all schools to protect students, teachers, and staff from the spread of Covid.
What do you think of the findings of the study? Let us know in the comments below.
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