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CDC finds schools with mask mandates 3.5 times less likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 4:14 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County now has the lowest COVID-19 case rate per capita in the state according to the New York Times. As the only county in Tennessee with an indoor mask mandate, health officials here said it’s obvious mask mandates are working.

In particular, they’re proud of how well the mandate has worked inside schools.

Shelby County is seeing a fall in COVID-19 infections, especially new pediatric cases. As of Wednesday, there are 863 active cases in kids.

When an indoor mask requirement was implemented in Shelby County at the end of August there were more than 2,700.

“Each time you see [a mask mandate put in place] the rt continues to come down,” Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

The rt number is the reproduction rate. It is now at .8, one of the lowest throughout the pandemic.

The CDC recently released a study of school districts in Arizona’s two largest counties. It found schools without mask mandates are 3.5 times more likely to see a COVID-19 outbreak.

While the data collected for the study is not kept in Shelby County, Dr. Taylor said two weeks after the August 24 mask mandate was issued pediatric cases started declining, and they have declined every week since.

“We looked at all of the numbers, but the pediatric numbers are really important because really in any type of outbreak, whether it’s COVID-19 or something in the past, you always look at the pediatric numbers because we know school aged children are often in congregant settings,” Dr. Taylor said.

Shelby County is now averaging 26 cases per 100,000 people. It’s the lowest rate in the state according to the New York Times database that tracks infections.

As the only county in Tennessee with an indoor mask requirement, Dr. Taylor says masks and an increased vaccination rate are a big part of stopping the spread.

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