Mask Use and Ventilation Improvements to Reduce COVID-19 Incidence in Elementary Schools- Georgia, November 16- December 11, 2020

May 28, 2021

Jenna Gettings, DVM; Michaila Czarnik, MPH; Elana Morris, MPH; Elizabeth Haller, MEd; Angela M. Thompson-Paul, PhD; Catherine Rasberry, PhD; Tatiana M. Lanzieri, MD; Jennifer Smith-Grant, MSPH; Tiffiany Michelle Aholou, PhD; Ebony Thomas, MPH; Cherie Drenzek, DVM; Duncan MacKellar, DrPH

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

Gettings et al and Georgia Department of Public Health collected data on the number of COVID-19 cases and preventative strategies used in K-5 grade schools. The data on COVID-19 cases were self-reported by parents, staff members, or local public health officials, and the data on preventative strategies were collected from an online survey sent to principals, nurses, and other school representatives. It was found that in schools with improved ventilation strategies, COVID-19 incidence was 39% lower. In addition, schools with regulations requiring teachers and other staff to wear masks, COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower. Overall, a 35% decrease in COVID-19 incidence was associated with schools which implemented dilution methods, such as turning on fans or opening windows and doors, or a 48% decrease when dilution methods were combined with filtration methods, such as high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). Ultimately, the research team urges teachers and staff members to continue to wear masks, vaccinate themselves, and ventilate, especially in areas where people are most likely to have COVID-19 (nurse’s office), to return to in-person learning.

Gettings J, Czarnik M, Morris E, et al. Mask Use and Ventilation Improvements to Reduce COVID-19 Incidence in Elementary Schools — Georgia, November 16–December 11, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021; 70: 779–84.

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