Mask Use and Ventilation Improvements to Reduce COVID-19 Incidence in Elementary Schools — Georgia, November 16–December 11, 2020




Representatives from 169 (11.6%) of 1,461 schools in 51 (32.1%) of 159 Georgia counties (median = two schools per county) completed the survey and also had available COVID-19 case data (Figure).¶¶¶ Schools reporting 100% virtual learning were excluded. Among the 169 schools, 162 (95.9%) were public, representing 47 (26.0%) of 181 public school districts in Georgia (median = two schools per district). Schools had a median of 532 enrolled students (attending virtually and in-person), 91.1% were publicly funded, 71.0% were located in metropolitan areas, and 82.2% used hybrid learning (Table 1). Median class size was 19.0 students (interquartile range [IQR] = 15.0–21.0); median cohort size was 20.0 students (IQR = 15.0–21.0). Among all schools, the proportion of students receiving at least some in-person instruction ranged from 8.5% to 100% (median = 84.7%); 3.0%–100% (median = 64.0%) were eligible for free or reduced-cost meal plans, and approximately one half of students were White (median = 55.1%), followed by Black (median = 17.0%), Hispanic (median = 9.0%), multiracial (median = 4.5%), and Asian (median = 1.0%).****

Prevention strategies implemented at participating schools included requiring masks for teachers and staff members (65.1%) or students (51.5%), flexible medical leave for teachers (81.7%), improved ventilation (51.5%), spacing all desks ≥6 ft apart (18.9%), and using barriers on all desks (22.5%). Schools reported a median of 9.0 (IQR = 8.0–9.0) locations with handwashing stations (Table 1).

Author(s): Jenna Gettings, DVM1,2,3; Michaila Czarnik, MPH1,4; Elana Morris, MPH1; Elizabeth Haller, MEd1; Angela M. Thompson-Paul, PhD1; Catherine Rasberry, PhD1; Tatiana M. Lanzieri, MD1; Jennifer Smith-Grant, MSPH1; Tiffiany Michelle Aholou, PhD1; Ebony Thomas, MPH2; Cherie Drenzek, DVM2; Duncan MacKellar, DrPH1

Publication Date: 21 May 2021

Publication Site: CDC

Schools Are Dropping Mask Requirements, But A New CDC Study Suggests They Shouldn’t



New research released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinforces an old message: COVID-19 spreads less in schools where teachers and staff wear masks. Yet the study arrives as states and school districts across the country have begun scaling back or simply dropping their masking requirements for staff and students alike.


The new study comes from Georgia and compares COVID-19 infection rates across 169 K-5 schools. Some schools required teachers, staff and sometimes students to wear masks; some did not.

Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, researchers found that infection rates were 37% lower in schools where teachers and staff members were required to wear masks. The difference between schools that did and did not require students to wear masks was not statistically significant.

Author(s): Cory Turner

Publication Date: 21 May 2021

Publication Site: NPR

Why reopening US schools is so complicated



The US can look to Europe for how this played out: European countries tried in-person learning last fall but began closing schools as B.1.1.7 swept through the continent. By December, countries including the Netherlands and Germany had shut down their schools in the face of rising case numbers. The CDC says it may need to update school reopening guidelines in light of new information about variants. 

This task is made more difficult because tracking the spread of variants in the US is tough right now. Compared with other countries, it has very few labs doing this work, and while more funding will help, Friedrich says there will still be a gap.

Author(s): Mia Sato

Publication Date: 5 March 2021

Publication Site: MIT Technology Review