Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, social distancing has become a common practice. But as much as maintaining a gap of 6 feet is of utmost importance, it is as important to wear a mask. These are simple measures that have really helped curb the spread of COVID-19.
What has research found?
The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, evaluated and compared the rates of COVID-19 cases in students and staff in Massachusetts public schools where masks are mandatory but social distancing rules vary according to the school requirements.
The research studied and evaluated the data from 251 Massachusetts school districts that included 537,336 students and 99,390 staff who attended in-person instruction during a 16-week study period from September 2020 to January 2021.
The team of researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that there was no significant difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in the school premises that followed a distancing policy of 3 feet in opposition to those who implemented a 6 feet distancing policy. That means, wearing well-fitted masks can ensure safe surroundings with lower physical distancing policies.
What does it suggest?
According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Polly van den Berg, “Prior studies have not directly compared the impact of different physical distancing policies among students attending in-person school. This research, which found no substantial difference in the number of cases among either students or staff in school districts that implemented a distancing policy of 3 versus 6 feet between students, is important because many school buildings have physical infrastructure that cannot accommodate 6 feet of distancing and bring all (or most) students back into the classroom.”
In addition to that, an infectious disease specialist at BIDMC and a clinical investigator at VA Boston Healthcare System, said, “These data can be used to inform and update how infection control plans are implemented in school settings." “It is important to remember that distancing was just one of a number of interventions adopted in the districts included in our analysis.
Across the districts included in our study, there was a near-universal masking mandate, thus our study addresses the question of the effectiveness of three versus six feet of distancing among students and staff who are wearing masks," he added.