Without masking & testing, new model estimates high COVID infection rate in schools by fall

WASHINGTON — Tensions continue to boil over about mask mandates in schools across the country and a new study shows how quickly the virus could spread between kids without certain safety measures in place.

Researchers from NC State University reviewed various levels of safety precautions in schools and used modeling methods to estimate new infections.

Without masking and testing, the model predicts up to 75 percent of susceptible students could get COVID-19 by the end of this semester.

The study shows with universal masking alone, the level of infections drops by up to 78 percent and the addition of bi-weekly testing with mask-wearing, drops the infection rate even more.

Dr. Sandy Arnold, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, believes keeping kids in the classroom is important but that means adding measures to keep them healthy as well.

“We need to be concerned that kids are actually getting infected and will start shedding virus a lot more quickly than they used to,” said Dr. Arnold. “It’s even good to see in modeling that if you did it once a week and you only tested 50 percent of the kids that you would see a nice reduction in cases.”

The study recommends a combination of masking and testing especially for elementary school students who aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet.