Thursday, July 21, 2022

New Study Adds to Growing Body of Evidence Suggesting Mask Mandates Are Ineffective

A new study published this month revealed that COVID-19 mask mandates in schools have little to no effect.

“Our findings contribute to a growing body of literature which suggests school-based mask mandates have limited to no impact on the case rates of COVID-19 among K-12 students,” researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California–Davis said in a preprint study published on Research Square.

Researchers evaluated two school districts in Fargo, North Dakota, in which one had a mask mandate and the other did not during the 2021–2022 academic year.

“We observed no significant difference between student case rates while the districts had differing masking policies nor while they had the same mask policies,” they noted, adding that the “impact of school-based mask mandates on COVID-19 transmission in children is not fully established” amid mandates nationwide.

A number of other studies have found no link between mask mandates and a drop in COVID-19 cases.

In one study published in May, researchers found that COVID-19 mask and vaccine rules implemented by Cornell University had limited impact against the transmission of Omicron in late 2021 and 2022.

“Cornell’s experience shows that traditional public health interventions were not a match for Omicron. While vaccination protected against severe illness, it was not sufficient to prevent rapid spread, even when combined with other public health measures including widespread surveillance testing,” the paper said.

And researchers in Spain found that mask mandates for children in Spain weren’t linked to a lower rate of COVID-19 cases or transmission.

In an evaluation of schoolchildren, kids aged 6 and older in Catalonia were required to wear masks once school reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers said.

Researchers compared the incidence of COVID-19 in older children to younger children to try to determine whether the mandates had been effective in the aim of reducing transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, in schools.

Their study identified a much lower case rate in preschool, where there were no mandates when compared to older groups who were required to wear masks. Five-year-olds, for instance, had an incidence of 3.1 percent, while 6-year-olds had an incidence of 3.5 percent.

Researchers in Toronto, Canada, and California replicated a 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of counties in Arizona, published in The Lancet in May, that expanded the number of data points and extended the time period. They discovered that cases quickly declined in the weeks after the CDC cut off its study and decreased more quickly in the counties that didn’t have mask mandates.

“School districts that choose to mandate masks are likely to be systematically different from those that do not in multiple, often unobserved, ways. We failed to establish a relationship between school masking and pediatric cases using the same methods but a larger, more nationally diverse population over a longer interval,” the researchers said.

“It was known long before COVID-19 that face masks don’t do anything,” Former Pfizer VP Michael Yeadon, a toxicologist and allergy research specialist, told The Epoch Times in May. “Many don’t know that blue medical masks aren’t filters. Your inspired and expired air moves in and out between the mask [and] your face. They are splashguards, that’s all.”


How Covid-19 has dramatically increased the number of children who can’t read — “the worst educational crisis for a century”

When covid­-19 first began to spread around the world, pausing normal lessons was a forgivable precaution. No one knew how transmissible the virus was in classrooms; how sick youngsters would become; or how likely they would be to infect their grandparents. But disruptions to education lasted long after encouraging answers to these questions emerged.

New data suggest that the damage has been worse than almost anyone expected. Locking kids out of school has prevented many of them from learning how to read properly. Before the pandemic 57% of ten­-year­-olds in low and middle­-income countries could not read a simple story, says the World Bank. That figure may have risen to 70%, it now estimates. The share of ten-year­-olds who cannot read in Latin America, probably the worst­-affected region, could rocket from around 50% to 80% (see chart 1 on next page).

Children who never master the basics will grow up to be less productive and to earn less. Mckinsey, a consultancy, estimates that by 2040 education lost to school closures could cause global gdp to be 0.9% lower than it would otherwise have been— an annual loss of $1.6trn. The World Bank thinks the disruption could cost children $21trn in earnings over their lifetimes—a sum equivalent to 17% of global gdp today. That is much more than the $10trn it had estimated in 2020, and also an increase on the $17trn it was predicting last year.

In many parts of the world, schools were closed for far too long (see chart 2 on next page). During the first two years of the pandemic countries enforced national school closures lasting 20 weeks on average, according to unesco. Periods of “partial” closure—when schools were closed in some parts of a country, or to some year groups, or were running part­time schedules—wasted a further 21 weeks. Regional differences are huge. Full and partial shutdowns lasted 29 weeks in Europe and 32 weeks in sub­Saharan Africa. Countries in Latin America imposed restrictions lasting 63 weeks, on average. That figure was 73 weeks in South Asia.

Over two years nearly 153m children missed more than half of all in­-person schooling, reckons unesco. More than 60m missed three­-quarters. By the end of May pupils in 13 countries were still enduring some restrictions on face-­to­-face learning—among them China, Iraq and Russia. In the Philippines and North Korea, classrooms were still more or less shut.

Poorer countries stayed closed longer than their neighbours. Places with low-performing schools kept them shut for longer than others in their regions. Closures were often long in places where teachers’ unions were especially powerful, such as Mexico and parts of the United States. Unions have fought hard to keep schools closed long after it was clear that this would harm children.

School closures were also long in places where women tend not to hold jobs, perhaps because there was less clamour for schools to go back to providing child care. Many children in the Philippines live with their grandparents, says Bernadette Madrid, an expert in child protection in Manila. That made people cautious about letting them mingle in the playground.

Places where schooling is controlled locally have found it harder to reopen. In highly centralised France, President Emmanuel Macron decreed that all but the eldest pupils would return to school nationwide before the end of the 2020 summer term. It was the first big European country to do this. This gave other countries more confidence to follow. By contrast, decisions about reopening in places such as Brazil dissolved into local squabbles. In America a full year separated the districts that were first and last to restart properly.

In some countries the results were truly dire. In South Africa primary schoolchildren tested after a 22-­week closure were found to have learned only about one-quarter of what they should have. Brazilian secondary-­school pupils who had missed almost six months of face-­to-­face school did similarly dreadfully. A study of 3,000 children in Mexico who had missed 48 weeks of in-­person schooling suggests they appeared to have learned little or nothing during that time.

Before covid­19 governments in many developing countries were overlooking egregious failures in their education systems. Optimists hope that the pandemic could spur them to start fixing the problems. Schemes to recover lost learning could lead to permanent reforms. Never before has there been so much good evidence about what works to improve schooling at scale, says Benjamin Piper of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.




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