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Latest research shows wearing a mask can keep students safe when they’re 3 feet apart

3 feet of social distancing
Photo via Daniel Moskowitz/Flickr (Public Domain)

As research shows, wearing masks to protect yourself and others during an outbreak is an idea that goes back centuries. Until enough of the population gets vaccinated for the world to achieve herd immunity, wearing a mask is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Though President Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants people wearing masks, not everybody is in agreement (and at least one Texas bar has thrown a “mask off” party to celebrate some states getting rid of their mask mandates).  

But, yes, there’s more hope to ending the pandemic than we’ve seen in months. But it’s not over yet. January was the deadliest month since the pandemic began, and though the numbers have been coming down since then, there are still heartbreaking stories of entire families dying from the coronavirus. 

That’s why the continued wearing of masks in our everyday lives is imperative. More research continues to emerge about the masks and whether they should be worn to help stave off coronavirus transmissions, and the vast majority of it shows masks are vital to keep people safe from COVID-19. 

Recently, one of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s advisers said, “I’m still waiting for someone to point me to where in the world mask mandates are working.” Well, the latest research continues to show that person exactly where they should be looking to find out the truth on masks. 

–As schools around the U.S. enter the stretch run of their academic years, more children have begun returning to in-person learning. Now, the Centers for Disease Control says three feet of social distancing is just as good as six feet for those who are in physical classrooms. A new study from the Infectious Diseases Society of America agrees, and in March 2021, it released its findings in Oxford Academic

The study looked at more than 530,000 students and nearly 100,000 staff members who attended in-person school in 251 school districts around the U.S. The coronavirus case rates of students were similar in the districts that allowed for three feet of distancing vs. the ones that allowed for six feet. As long as people wore masks, the study’s authors wrote, there wasn’t much difference. 

As the authors noted, “Lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.”

–While some anti-maskers believe that wearing face coverings can lower their oxygen levels, the CDC is once again disproving that theory. In two studies, one in adults and one in children, researchers did not find any indication of either decreased oxygen or an increase in carbon dioxide in the blood of those being studied. 

One study focused on children in Rome, Italy between May and June of 2020. They completed 30-minute sessions of wearing a mask and not wearing one, and their oxygen saturation, carbon dioxide, pulse rate, and respiratory rate were checked for each session. The other study was conducted on adults between the ages of 29 and 45 in Cleveland between August and October. Each person took part in 10-minute study phases where they sat and walked briskly without a mask, did the same with a cloth mask, and then completed the same tasks with a surgical mask. 

Wrote the CDC: “No participants developed hypoxemia (decreased oxygen level) or hypercarbia (increased carbon dioxide level) while wearing either a cloth or surgical mask during rest or physical activity.” 

In case you missed the last blog post, the spotlighted research showed that mask mandates still work and that they should still be kept in place.

Josh Katzowitz

Written by Josh Katzowitz