Masks, distance, ventilation: How COVID-19 measures protect students
Of all the ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 in schools, wearing masks has arguably become the most controversial.
We want to make sure this is clear: kids are significantly less likely than adults to get severely sick with COVID-19. They’re even less likely to die from the virus. But, their risk is not zero. As of the writing of this article, Golisano Children’s Hospital is treating 14 children for severe cases of COVID-19. Before this point in the pandemic, doctors tell us they were only treating 1 to 2 children with COVID at a given time.
Experts say there are ways to reduce the risks of children getting COVID-19 at school, so we don’t have to revert back to virtual learning like last year.
Health experts agree, the number one most effective way to de-fang the COVID-19 monster–is vaccination. But not all kids are old enough to get vaccinated. That’s why additional measures, like masking, are necessary.
The truth is, we still don’t have enough data to say for certain that masks are the most effective tool to keep COVID away from our kids at school. It could be ventilation or something else entirely.
Here’s what we do know: The more protective measures schools have in place, the harder it is for the virus to spread.
It helps to think of each virus mitigation tool, like a slice of swiss cheese. Picture that slice of swiss in your mind right now. There are lots of holes in that slice, so it’s easy for things to pass through. But if you stack another slice of swiss on top, some of the holes will be blocked.
For example, if students are socially distanced, they’re protected by one single mitigation measure. This will help curb some spread. If kids are both socially distanced and masked, it will help curb the spread even more. If kids are socially distanced, masked, and the school improves ventilation, the virus will have even less of a chance to spread. The more layers, the more protection.
Since we know layering mitigation measures is what works, it makes sense to layer as many as we can, since we don’t really know how much protection each measure offers on its own.
It’s important to remember, there is still a lot about this virus that we don’t know. That’s why it seems CDC guidance changes by the day. It’s also why we need to be as careful as possible, especially when it comes to our kids.
Having your child wear a mask at school is not a guarantee they will stay healthy. It is, however, a very simple way for your child to stay safer, with hardly any downside.
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