Mask-wearing effective in preventing COVID-19 in North Carolina schools, report says

A new report shows North Carolina schools were highly successful in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 at schools.

Dr. Danny Benjamin and Dr. Kanecia Obie Zimmerman, co-chairs of the Duke-led ABC Science Collaborative, discussed their findings virtually Wednesday.

The report showed wearing a mask was effective in preventing transmission in schools, even without physical distancing.

Dr. Benjamin made it clear the collaborative doesn't recommend policy, such as around mask wearing, but that they're focused on presenting findings and research.

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Dr. Benjamin said vaccines are also extraordinarily effective in preventing COVID-19. Children must be at least 12 years old to get the vaccine.

Dr. Zimmerman said those in schools who came into contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 had to quarantine for a substantial period of time. That may not be necessary.

"That means collectively in North Carolina we have more than 40,000 people who had to quarantine during the 10-12 weeks," Dr. Zimmerman said, adding that hundreds of thousands of school days have been missed because of quarantine.

"Yet the benefit that we're seeing is nil," Dr. Zimmerman said. "It is very minimal transmission. Therefore the risk to go to enhanced community spread really is not there so we have these missed school days without the benefit of actually controlling spread. This is something that I think we should think very careful about as we move forward."
Parents have mixed reactions about wearing masks in schools.

"I think it should be an option with families to determine what is best for them," said Wake County mother Kelly Mann. "I see states that fully removed mask mandates. I'm not hearing, I'm not reading about anything drastically changing with their community transmission."

Mann leads the Facebook group Children First NC/Wake County.

"We know that there is very low transmission within children to begin with," Mann said. "I think it should be optional for parents that feel extremely worried about sending their child back to school without a mask on, or with other students that don't have masks on."

Mark Leuver has two children who go to a charter school in the area.

"I still think that everyone should wear a mask and I think that there should be social distancing the best you can," Leuver said. "The best thing I think people have been doing is washing their hands. I think good hygiene practices are good and need to be continued. I'm more worried that people are going to be relaxed about it."

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