ECRI Blog

Masks in Schools? Findings of ECRI's Evidence-Based Assessment Report

Some 18 months after the COVID-19 pandemic altered daily life, it continues to influence how people in the U.S. and across the globe live, play, Blog school maskswork, and educate children.

COVID’s Delta variant, a highly contagious, more infectious strain has led to increased transmissibility when compared with other variants and prompted the U.S. to renew the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration. Delta has caused an increased number of cases, including breakthrough cases in some vaccinated people, as well as rising hospitalizations, especially in regions with low vaccination rates.

Alarmingly, another Delta trend is the significant jump in the number of cases in children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The number of new child COVID cases remains exceptionally high. Nearly 207,000 cases were added the past week, the fifth consecutive week with over 200,000 child cases added… For the week ending September 23, (2021) children were 26.7% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.”

Throughout the pandemic, ECRI has made available free COVID resources for healthcare leaders through its COVID-19 Resource Center. Now, as many companies are asking virtual workers to come back to the office and most school districts have returned to in-person learning, ECRI is working to provide healthcare leaders, educators and parents with evidence-based information about COVID-19 and the effectiveness of masks for children in classroom settings. The CDC, recommends that children (older than two years old) wear face masks while in school (see the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools), as does the American Academy of Pediatrics.

ECRI's evidence review, published September of 2021, focuses on the effectiveness of nonmedical face masks to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in school settings. ECRI experts assessed 18 publications (including preprints) that addressed COVID-19 cases, adverse events, mask use, and hospitalizations among school students or school staff.

The information reviewed by ECRI found that there is evidence to support the wearing of masks in schools. Although, the evidence assessed did not clearly identified masks as the sole preventative measure against COVID-19 transmission in schools, since other mitigation strategies such as social distancing, smaller class sizes, and frequent hand-washing by children were also in place and its effects were not segregated in the evidence.

ECRI’s clinical evidence assessment, Face Coverings Worn by Children in School Settings to Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission is available free of charge on the COVID-19 Resource Center. 

For additional details about this evidence report contact us today

Topics: COVID-19, Evidence-Based Medicine, Clinical Evidence Assessment, Evidence-based decision making