The findings of this study were used to double down on masking rules in schools, forcing healthy children with little to no risk of the disease to cover their faces throughout their long school days. Recently, however, a pair of Toronto scientists tried to replicate this study and expand upon it using data from 1,832 counties. Not surprisingly, the larger data set indicated that mask mandates actually do not have any effect.
In fact, when looking at a smaller data pool from the Canadian researchers' study to make a more effective comparison to the CDC study, it even appears that masked counties fared worse. According to the Toronto authors, the original CDC study only looked at infection rates recorded through the second week after the schools reopened. This was a period of time that ended up being the peak of school case numbers as students went back to school after the summer and began mingling once again. Selecting this week effectively concealed the fact that cases quickly dropped in later weeks – and they did so faster in counties that did not have mask mandates in place.
Another issue with the CDC's original study was the fact that the analysis ended in early September 2021. This effectively excluded the counties whose school year begins in the second half of August, resulting in an oversampling of the southern states, where school tends to start earlier. Counties in the South were less likely to have school mask mandates, and many of them experienced infection spikes late in the summer due to the high temperatures and people's extensive dependence on air conditioning during that time.
This conclusion aligns with a different study out of Finland comparing the incidence of COVID-19 among children in cities with different recommendations regarding the use of face masks in schools. This study found that there was no benefit of wearing masks for children aged 10 to 12.
Meanwhile, in Spain, a country known for having some of the strictest mask requirements both indoors and outdoors for much of the pandemic, researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in the transmission of COVID-19 between children over the age of 6, who were required to wear masks in school, and those under 6, who were exempt from the rule.
The study reached its conclusion after analyzing virus transmission during the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year in the country's Catalan region. During this time, routine COVID-19 testing was carried out on all of the students in a class each time there was a positive case, making it easier to see the transmission in each age group.
The researchers noted that if mask mandates did have a significant effect on transmission, there would have been lower transmission in the 6-year-olds, who wore masks, compared to the unmasked 5-year-olds, but there was no difference between the two. Neither the incidence rate nor the transmission rate of the virus were significantly lower among the groups wearing masks.
However, the researchers cautioned that their results could not be extrapolated to other types of environments, such as shopping malls or cinemas. They emphasize that their results were only applicable to the very specific environment of schools.
Even though masks have been discredited by study after study, they continue to be required in many areas, and those who profited off of the pandemic are now trying to use monkeypox outbreaks to justify the ongoing need for masks.
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