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Should Masks Be Mandated in Schools?

A Discussion of the Evidence on Masks in Schools

 
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After 2 years, growing calls to take masks off children in school

January 28, 2022

Across the country, about two-thirds of large school districts currently require students to wear masks. Most commonly, those masks are cloth. And cloth masks, experts say, are insufficient to contain the spread of the omicron variant.

Where one goes with those two pieces of information is, increasingly, a pandemic Rorschach test.

Students with Masks

Should kids wear masks in schools? Maybe not

January 27, 2022

In evidence-based medicine, the burden of proof is on the intervention, not the norm. The norm is seeing human faces. The intervention is endless masking.

Image by Kelly Sikkema

Mask Mandates Didn’t Make Much of a Difference Anyway

February 11, 2022

But there’s no avoiding it: The benefits of universal masking have been difficult to quantify. One controlled study in Bangladesh showed a small but statistically significant benefit — among people who consistently used masks, 7.6% got symptomatic infections compared to 8.6% in the control group. Other studies have been inconclusive.

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The CDC’s Flawed Case for Wearing Masks in School

December 16, 2021

The agency’s director has said, repeatedly, that schools without mask mandates have triple the risk of COVID outbreaks. That claim is based on very shaky science.

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Should kids wear masks in schools? Maybe not

January 27, 2022

Parents are legitimately asking what the benefits are — at this stage — for policies like masking and whether they outweigh the harms. We have to engage with the science showing that the masks we’ve been donning for two years don’t work all that well. The most rigorous study in adults found that surgical masks reduced infection by about 10% — in adults. And that was before omicron. Dr. Leana Wen called cloth masks “facial decoration.” There are no approved N95 respirators for kids and no data to justify knockoff varieties. We have to ask: How have so many European countries managed to keep kids in school and barefaced and their death rates lower than ours?

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It’s Time to End Mandatory Masks in Schools

February 5, 2022

There is no significant evidence that the kind of masking (i.e. non-medical) that is common in schools is worth it. An Arizona study frequently cited by CDC director Rochelle Walensky as evidence for continued masking in schools has been thoroughly dismantled. More and more experts have concluded that the evidence for masks in schools doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Safety Mask

We're a Physician and Mathematician and a Data Scientist. N95s Won't Work for Kids | Opinion

January 24, 2022

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of respirators is vastly overestimated, and there is scant evidence that they stop community transmission. Moreover, NIOSH-approved respirators are tight, uncomfortable, and can impede breathing. OSHA requires both fit testing and a medical evaluation before workers can wear them. We've all seen images of health care workers with bruised faces from properly worn respirators.


The truth is, the burdens of these masks outweigh their benefits for kids. We need to consider more effective, less harmful interventions as we come together to keep schools open and safe.

Image by marco fileccia

Evidence Summary Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the use of face coverings in education settings

January 2022

80% of pupils reported that wearing a face covering made it difficult to communicate, and more than half felt wearing one made learning more difficult (55%). 
A survey conducted by the Department for Education in April 2021 found that almost all secondary leaders and teachers (94%) thought that wearing face coverings has made communication between teachers and students more difficult, with 59% saying it has made it a lot more difficult.