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Adults can greatly reduce Covid-19 in schools by wearing masks

The results of a new study published by Frontiers suggests that adults can greatly reduce Covid-19 transmission in schools and preschools by wearing masks. The researchers found that Covid-19 outbreaks were more severe when an adult was the first identified case, or the index case.

The experts report that adults wearing masks can significantly lower secondary cases. They recommend that masks become obligatory for adults working at schools and preschools to help prevent outbreaks.

“To date, there is only insufficient evidence to definitively rule out schools as a source of infection. It remains undisputed that children and adolescents can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and can spread the infection possibly as asymptomatic carriers,” wrote the study authors. 

“However, studies in schools suggest that infections are predominantly brought into schools by adults and that a child-to-child transmission in schools is rare and probably not the primary cause of SARS-CoV-2 infections in children collectives.”

While the role that children play in the spread of Covid-19 remains unclear, school closures are not the best solution. Research has shown that the closing of schools has negative impacts on the well-being of children and adolescents. School closures have been linked to social isolation and academic challenges, for example.

“To avoid school closures at high incidence levels, it is important to identify factors contributing to the spread of Covid-19 infections in schools and preschools,” said study co-author Dr. Anika Kästner of the University Medicine Greifswald.

The experts analyzed the dynamics of Covid-19 infections in schools and preschools. In particular, they looked at changes in hygiene measures and studied the influence of these measures on the extent of outbreaks.

The analysis was focused on routine surveillance data of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, between August 2020 and May 2021. They analyzed outbreak events in schools and preschools, while considering changes in infection control measures over time. 

“Our results show that mandatory masking of teachers and caregivers and children at schools in the 2020 to 2021 school year each resulted in a significant reduction in the number of Covid-19 transmissions,” said study first author Dr. Martine Sombetzki.

“In a model analysis, mask obligation, for adults in particular, was shown to be effective in reducing secondary cases,” said Dr. Kästner. “We can therefore recommend all-time mandatory masking in schools for both children and adults. In preschools, mask wearing could also reduce secondary cases.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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