We Should Open Schools with Masks and Shields

It has been twelve days since my family participated in a community rally for black lives matter. Knock on wood, I have not heard from anyone in the rally who have contracted the novel coronavirus. These rallies have been widespread, but no surge in cases has been associated with these gatherings. In our neighborhood protest, it was impossible to maintain a social distance of six feet, but there was one thing everyone was able to observe. Everyone was wearing a mask.

My daughter Amelia speaks in a rally for Black Lives Matter

Several weeks have already passed since massive rallies for George Floyd were staged. Yet, surges in cases have not occurred. Take, for instance, Minneapolis, the epicenter of these protests. At this time, the city is reporting only 1.4 percent positive for those who were tested and also attended rallies. The same is true for other major metropolitan areas where demonstrations happened.

Above copied from Intelligencer

The photo and caption above probably captures the reason why a surge in cases has not materialized: Widespread masking. People were worried that COVID-19 cases would spike with these assemblies, especially after several places witnessed an increase in cases after stay-at-home protests.

Above captured from CBS video

Here, the difference can be seen, wearing masks is not evident. Although these observations may seem convincing, a thorough and scientific analysis of data is still warranted before drawing a conclusion. This week, a new study has been submitted for publication. It has not been peer-reviewed yet, but there is no indication of any major flaw in the study. The investigators, which include ophthalmologists in the state of Virginia, arrived at the conclusion that wearing face masks is the most effective intervention against the spread of COVID-19.

Above copied from MedRxiv

The analysis includes 198 countries and with the much more evident measure of COVID-19, mortality, the negative correlation is obvious:

Above copied from MedRxiv

Other measures have also been examined like widespread testing, tracing and isolation but these measures are not as significant as the correlation seen with wearing face masks.

This coming Fall, school officials are still contemplating on how to reopen classrooms. There is a lot of emphasis on social distancing which places a huge burden on school infrastructure and transportation. Based on what is known now, one thing should be clear, wearing face masks is the most important measure. If wearing a mask is not possible, there is an alternative. Thailand is an example of a country that has a very low number of COVID-19 cases yet indoor dining still persists:

Above copied from The Atlantic

Plastic barriers can easily be installed on school desks inside classrooms and canteens. Thailand, of course, is a country where face masks have been worn by the public since January. And its effectiveness is clearly seen in how the country has controlled the spread of the virus:

Above copied from Worldometer

Wearing masks and using plastic shields can possibly help schools reopen this coming Fall. Keeping our schools closed and relying fully on distance learning is not a good option. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, but depriving our children of attending a classroom is equally consequential. We must be guided by science, not politics, not fear.


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