OKLAHOMA CITY — Recent studies have shown that schools with mask policies in place have substantially lower COVID-19 transmission rates than schools without such policies, according to University of Oklahoma’s Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler.
In his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Bratzler addressed two recent studies that showed a reduction of more than 50 percent in the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and school districts with mandatory face mask policies.
“I know this is politically charged, but I also know the data is very clear now that masks are very effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19,” Bratzler said.
Bratzler cited three recent studies. One in Arizona showed that schools without mask polices had 3½ times more cases than schools that did. Another from a large nationwide study showed a 50 percent reduction in COVID cases in counties where districts had mask requirements. The final, and most recent study, also showed a more than 50 percent reduction in secondary transmission when both parties, both infected and uninfected, were wearing a mask.
“This is more strong evidence that masks are very effective at reducing person-to-person transmission of COVID-19,” Bratzler said.
Bratzler also highlighted the most recent numbers from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which reports on the number of children 18 or younger who are infected with COVID-19. According to the academy, there were almost 150,000 children newly infected with COVID last week and 25 percent of all the new cases in the nation are those 18 and younger.
“I want to highlight this as we begin to think about vaccines that will be available for kids between the ages of 5 and 11, assuming the FDA and the CDC do make that recommendation soon,” Bratzler said.
Despite the relatively high number of young children being infected, Bratzler stressed that age is still the biggest predictor of complications from COVID.
“We know certainly that underlying conditions can put you at greater risk. But if you get to 85 and older, one in five have died from complications. All age groups have seen death, but the numbers at this age are quite high,” Bratzler said. “That is part of the reason booster vaccinations are suggested for those 65 and older.”
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 12,000 new cases and 72 new deaths on Wednesday, according to Bratzler. While the Delta surge has plateaued, he stressed that COVID is in no way over in the state.
“I do want to highlight that COVID has not gone away, even though I’ve seen a lot of things suggesting that we’ve improved a lot,” Bratzler said. “There are still a lot of people being infected every day.”
Bratzler stressed the need for anyone who is eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations to do so. Visit vaccinate.oklahoma.gov to learn more.