Off-Ramps for School Masking

Image/Headshot of John Giardina.

CHDS PhD candidate John Giardina  published an article in JAMA Network Open on “off-ramps” and “on-ramps” for masking and other COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures in elementary schools. Simple, available metrics can inform these patterns, including case rates in the local community and vaccination coverage. The analysis used model-based simulations to quantify how changes in mitigation measures like masking might impact COVID-19 transmission among students, teachers, staff, and their families. The authors concluded that such off and on-ramps vary widely based on the goals that school policymakers want to achieve, but that in order to meet a range of reasonable goals, local case rates will generally need to be far below those seen during the current wave of the pandemic before unmasking.

For illustration, in an elementary school with a goal of limiting the number of additional cases that result from unmasking among students, teachers, staff, and families to less than 10 per month, and a current vaccination rate of 25% among students and 70% among teachers, the study found that decision-makers should only remove masks when the local COVID-19 case rate is below 14 cases per 100,000 per day. If vaccination coverage were to increase to 90% among both students and teachers, for example, decision-makers could remove masks when the local case rate was higher than 50 cases per 100,000 per day and still achieve the same goal.

Giardina collaborated on the study with investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and elsewhere.

Learn more: Read the full article Model-Estimated Association Between Simulated US Elementary School-Related SARS-CoV-2 Transmission, Mitigation Interventions, and Vaccine Coverage Across Local Incidence Levels
Learn more: Explore CHDS’ COVID-19 Resource and Teaching Packs

Related news: COVID-19 Policy Modeling with Jagpreet Chhatwal
Related news: COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy