Is Masking Kids at School Working?
Kids in California, New York, Illinois, and a number of other states are required to wear face masks every day at school. Nearly 40% of schoolchildren nationwide are required to do so. Other states leave it up to local rules, which means about half the kids in the country are wearing face masks every day, social distancing, eating lunch outside, and performing athletics in masks.
Close to 30% of all schools are legally prevented from implementing mandates, or face pending legal challenges to restrictions, which means few in those states are imposing restrictions as we saw in 2020-2021. Below are those states with and without face mask requirements in schools.
There are two things that would almost assuredly amaze most parents across the country. Many parents in states like California or Illinois with mask mandates would likely be shocked how normal school protocols are in Texas, Florida, Utah, Iowa, and other states are shown in dark green or orange. Those with school-aged children in the green states would be stunned to learn that those in blue are requiring kids to wear face masks in school, socially distance, and eat outside in the cold or rain.
Some universities are requiring students to wear masks while on campus, even outdoors, including the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona.
COVID-19 is currently surging all over the country. Fortunately, a combination of a less lethal variant, recovered immunity and vaccinations are preventing many from the highly serious conditions we have seen in the past. You can see below that positive tests have skyrocketed over the past few weeks. Why so many people who aren’t sick are waiting in long lines and panicking to buy at-home tests is the subject for another article, but it’s clear that millions are currently contracting COVID-19:
In looking at the grouping of the states (CA/OR/WA/IL/NY/DE/MA/CT/NJ/MD/NV/NM/VA/RI) with required masking in schools compared to those without mask mandates (UT/FL/AZ/TX/OK/MO/IA/AR/TN/SC), where very few students are wearing them, we see nearly identical trends, and those with little to no masking have lower current case rates:
The proportion of pediatric positive tests is similar in all parts of the country right now, about 20% of all positive tests across the three 0-17 age groups shown below. This is about the same regardless of weather (seasonality) or restrictions:
It made us wonder. Are the school restrictions in some states working? It’s not about cases; cases are really a product of community spread and how much testing we do. It is about sickness. Are more kids getting hospitalized for or with COVID-19 in the states with normal school protocols than those requiring face masks?
We reached out to Josh Stevenson (@ifihadastick on Twitter), who has repeatedly produced amazing data analysis throughout the pandemic. Below is what he uncovered. This is an original compilation you won’t see anywhere else. For the states requiring masks, COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations are averaging 4.23 per 100,000 kids:
For the states not allowing face mask mandates (or close to not requiring), COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations are averaging 4.90 per 100,000 kids:
The hospitalization rate is nearly identical. There is no discernible difference between outcomes of infection or hospitalization for kids in communities where face masks are required in school and those where face coverings are optional.
Kids should be in school with normal protocols. They should be in class without masks, without plexiglass dividers, socializing while they eat lunch, and participating in sports without face masks. Logic clearly tells us this, and this data overwhelmingly proves there is no health benefit to requiring kids to wear face masks in school.