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As masking in schools went up, COVID cases in children went down

Students sit in an Algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school on Monday in Miami Lakes, Fla. Miami-Dade County public schools require students to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Marta Lavandier
/
AP
Students sit in an Algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school on Monday in Miami Lakes, Fla. Miami-Dade County public schools require students to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It appears that COVID cases among children are falling and the timing of the decline coincides with an increase of mask mandates in Oklahoma schools.

At the beginning of the month, Oklahoma schools were allowed to implement mask mandates because of an injunction filed against Senate Bill 658.

Since then, dozens of public schools have implemented mask requirements containing opt out provisions. At least 34 of the state’s public school districts have implemented masking mandates.

Opt out rates vary by district, mostly they’ve been low in Oklahoma City, but have been as high as 28 percent in Claremore. Still, superintendents who’ve implemented mask mandates say they make mask wearing more common.

It’s difficult to say if the mandates played a role, says Dr. David Kendrick, the department chair of medical informatics at the OU School of Community Medicine

“The leveling off in school aged kids appeared after the injunction was put in place,” he said. “It's hard to say whether that's causal or coincidental at this point, but we're going to continue to follow it.”

Masking in schools probably hasn’t hurt. A CDC study out of Arizona shows that schools without mask mandates are 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks than schools that have them. 

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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