Lies Toribio teaches her kindergarten students at Bethesda Elementary School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on April 22nd. Hyosub Shin / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / TNS / ZUMA
According to new research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Covid-19 cases in elementary schools appears to be 37% lower when teachers and staff are required to wear masks and 39% when air ventilation is improved.
The findings are based on data prior to the availability of coronavirus vaccines, but until children under 12 meet the requirements for the vaccine, “universal and correct use of masks is a critical prevention strategy. “, according to the study published on Friday.
Despite starting vaccinations for children ages 12 to 15 and changing the CDC mask guide for fully vaccinated people, the agency has said schools should continue to mask and use other coronavirus prevention strategies for at least 3 months. rest of the school year 2020-2021. Because masking reduces transmission and is easy to implement, it is “an important strategy for preventing COVID-19 in schools,” the study says.
“This study highlighted the importance of masking and ventilation to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in primary schools and revealed important opportunities to increase its use among schools,” the researchers from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the coronavirus that Covid-19 causes.
The new research included data from 169 5-year-old K schools in Georgia. Schools opened face-to-face classes last fall. At the time, the Georgia Department of Health required all schools to submit weekly data on the number of Covid-19 cases among students and staff.
The researchers examined these figures between November 16 and December 11. They also assessed the responses to an online survey that was emailed to school superintendents, asking about Covid-19 prevention strategies implemented in schools at the time, including air vents.
The researchers found that while the incidence of Covid-19 was lower in schools that needed masks, it varied depending on whether staff or students should wear masks. The researchers found that schools with mask requirements for teachers and staff had a 37% lower incidence. Schools with mask requirements for students had a 21% lower incidence.
“The 21% lower incidence in schools that required the use of masks among students was not statistically significant compared to schools where the use of masks was optional,” the researchers wrote. “This finding could be attributed to greater effectiveness of masks among adults, who have a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but may also result from differences in the behavior of mask use among adults. students in schools with optional requirements “.
As for air ventilation, the researchers found that there was a 35% lower incidence of Covid-19 when only windows and doors were left open or fans were used. But the data showed that when these ventilation measures were used in combination with high-efficiency particle absorption or HEPA filters or other filter methods, there was a 48% lower incidence.
“In rooms that are difficult to ventilate or more likely to be occupied by people with COVID-19 (e.g., nursing office), the installation of HEPA or UVGI filters should be considered,” the researchers wrote. . They added that only about half (or 51.5%) of school representatives reported in the online survey that they were “confident” that ventilation would improve in their schools ’classrooms.
While 18% “reported that their school implemented dilution methods in combination with filtration,” the researchers wrote. “These findings suggest that there are opportunities for many schools to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission through improved ventilation.”
More research is needed to determine if similar findings may arise in other parts of the United States and in data that are not reported or based on online surveys.