Masks in schools are ‘working’ in slowing COVID-19 spread, new data shows

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, (KNST) –The controversy over masks intensifies. New data shows mask requirements are keeping students safer in schools.

CDC data shows schools without masks are 3.5 times more likely to have an outbreak. While some Kansas schools are enforcing masks and others aren’t, health leaders say it’s showing.

Lori Vawter, Nursing Services Coordinator at Topeka Public Schools, said the district’s mask requirement policy is ‘working’ in helping reduce coronavirus spread.

“We are not experiencing outbreaks, we’re not identified as a cluster or a hotspot in any way,” Vawter told the Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday.

However, it’s only part of the district’s extensive mitigation strategies that Vawter said have helped keep the virus from spreading.

“District-wide, there are UV lights that are in place after school hours… there’s disinfectants that are used… the ventilation system has been updated,” she explained.

According to the school district, less than 1.3% of staff or students have tested positive for coronavirus, which has helped keep kids in the classroom.

Meanwhile, some schools in Kansas are experiencing spikes in positive cases, and a growing number of clusters are popping up across the state.

As of Wednesday, state data shows 648 active cases and 79 active clusters among schools. This has surpassed long-term care facilities, which had seen a surge in cases over the past month.

The Governor’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup met Wednesday to discuss the latest national and local data for school districts in the state. While, more than half of Kansas schools are not reporting, the limited state data showed that school districts among this population without mask policies in place are more prone to positive cases and outbreaks compared to those with mask requirements in place. The state’s numbers showed that 41% of cases related to outbreaks came from schools without a policy, while only 24% were linked to those that required masks.

During the meeting, state officials said they plan to update the state health department’s coronavirus dashboard with new data later this week, showing case rates and vaccination rates in school districts so that people can keep track of the latest information.

For now, they’re continuing to track what’s working on the ground in Kansas schools.

And like Vawter mentioned, there’s a variety of safety measures that go into it.

“Wearing masks, hand washing, and staying home when you’re sick and all of those things, so, it isn’t just wearing a mask that really makes a difference, it’s doing all of those things together.”

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