Schools and Churches: Here's the data on why masks work against Delta
Show this to your school boards, administrators, and churches
***So many of you have asked for help in advocating to your schools boards and churches for mandatory masking. There’s lots of great resources out there that I’ve already linked to here. But I also wanted to provide you with this set of data that, to me personally, is the strongest evidence we have. School boards, administrators, church leaders - please heed this data for mandatory masking with Delta.***
Delta now accounts for over 98% of new infections in the US due to the new variant being highly transmissible - about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant. The reproduction rate (R0), which is an estimate of how many people can be infected by one person, is between 5-9. A recent JAMA article ran a simple calculation showing why this R0 matters:
“If a virus with an R0 of 2.5 spreads among a completely susceptible population, an estimated 9536 infections would result after 10 cycles of transmission. However, for a virus with an R0 of 6, 10 cycles of transmission could result in an estimated 60,466,176 infections.”
That is why we are seeing explosions in unvaccinated/low vaccinated areas.
WHAT ABOUT SCHOOLS? I also want you to think about this calculation in school settings without masking, school settings without masking, and the double whammy of school settings in children younger than 12 (where we don’t have vaccines yet) and those schools now masking.
Let me show you the data on why masking matters against Delta. Hopefully this can help you advocate to your school boards and encourage you (and our children) in your mask wearing.
Picture 1 - Masking works extremely well to protect our children and communities against Delta - up to 75% reduction in transmission.
Picture 2 - Social distancing ALONE does NOT work. You really need high rates of masking to work. Hence, mandatory masking in schools will keep our schools open and children/families/communities healthy.
Picture 3 - Masking against Delta helps keeps infection low, squashes outbreaks, and reduces death 3-4 fold.
Here are the details:
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center made the above fantastic graphic showing the impact that wearing a mask can make for you, your families, and your communities. (You can find the FB post with the original graphic here.) They cited the JAMA study and the next study I want to share with you.
Another study in Nature (one of the best and most trusted science journals out there) highlighted the difference mask wearing makes against Delta.
Look at Panel B below. The columns at the top depict mask wearing - from 0% to 80% and the rows depict time from 0 to 12 days. The red and dark blue dots show infections - So, look at the bottom row and compare who was and wasn’t infected between 0%, 40%, and 80% mask wearing. 75% reductions in infections with mask wearing - y’all, that’s a lot of children and families spared the risk of severe infection, long COVID, etc.
Look also at Panel C. This shows how outbreaks can be squashed quicker (much quicker) with even 40% mask wearing - and really squashed with 80% mask wearing. Think of why this important in a school setting - rather than risking school closures due to outbreaks, staff being sick, and students being sick in large numbers (we are already seeing this scenario in Florida and Texas), masking can make a big difference in keeping our schools open by REDUCING the number of infected individuals - remember the R0 for Delta means 1 sick kid/teacher can infect 6-9 others in the room without masks. So, masking can help keep our kids in school.
The next question is whether or not social distancing will work instead of masking. The quick answer is nope but let me show you.
Look at Panel B. The columns show social distancing percentages of 0%, 40%, and 80%. Inside each graph you’ll see the number of daily infections based on the % of mask wearing. The BIG takeaway from this is that social distancing doesn’t make that much of a difference in daily new infections when compared to masking. This highlights why masking in schools, churches, social settings are SO important - social distancing is not enough against Delta. Also notice the difference masking makes in reducing the daily number of infections. 0% masking means 60 cases per day (think of this in a school setting) and is reduced to around 8-10 with 80% masking. Think of this over a week period - that’s a lot of kids/teachers sick without masking!
Lastly, let me show you how masking (and non-masking) impacts our communitities.
Panel A - Notice the difference masking makes in % of population infected against Delta. Again, we see masking makes more of a difference than social distancing. Both are good to do! But, not social distancing only.
Panel B and C - Flattening the epidemic curve and squashing it happens MUCH quicker when we get to 80% masking.
Panel D and E - This one for me was the biggest takeaway. Panel D shows deaths per million people with social distancing only (Panel D) or masking only (Panel E). Notice the HUGE difference in what masking does in preventing deaths (which are largely preventable at this point due to the vaccines).
I hope this data helps you as you continue to advocate to your schools, churches, and businesses for universal masking. This is STRONG data showing why masking works - and, just how WELL it works against Delta for our families and communities.