The state’s Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) conducted a survey of Arkansas public and charter schools regarding mask policies.
To obtain apples-to-apples comparisons, BLR collected data from schools on September 1 and asked for numbers specific to that date. While numbers can fluctuate even during a 24-hour period, BLR reportedly tried to make the snapshot-in-time data be as specific to the 8-hour day of Sept. 1 as possible.
BLR received responses from 180 school districts and charter school systems for a response rate of 70 percent.
To perform the analysis, they divided the school districts/charter systems into two groups based on mask policy. One group consists of those that had full mask mandates in place for at least two weeks; the other contains those with full mask policies for less than two weeks, partial mask policies or no mask policies. BLR used the two-week cutoff because the incubation period for COVID can be up to two weeks.
Once divided into these two groups, there were:
· 99 WITH NO mask policy
· 81 WITH mask policies
BLR then calculated for each district/charter these percentages based on the September 1 numbers:
· Percent Students Positive for Covid
· Percent Students Quarantined Due to Covid Exposure
· Percent Employees Positive for Covid
· Percent Employees Quarantined Due to Covid Exposure
BLR then performed an analysis called comparison of the means, which basically looks at the averages of each of the above instances within each group of With Mask Mandate Policy or No Mask Mandate Policy. They also tested each of these for statistical significance at the .05 level, meaning that there would be less than 5 percent chance that the patterns were random. While this does not prove cause, it does indicate a relationship between the two variables.
The results show statistically significant results in all cases except for the comparison of average percent of students positive for COVID on 9/1/2021. In all cases the average percent is higher for schools without a full mask mandate policy in place for two weeks vs. all other schools.
While the schools with mask mandates only had a small percent increase of students with COVID, schools without mask mandates had a statistically significant increase of students and staff having to quarantine, keeping students out of the classroom for up to two weeks at a time.
There’s no question: Masks in schools help keep our children in the classroom.
In other news from ACHI:
The ACHI team reports an all-time high this week for the number of school districts in the “purple zone” — indicating the highest rates of new infection — on ACHI’s map tracking known COVID-19 infections. Fifty-nine Arkansas school districts have infection rates of 100 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up from 41 districts last week. A total of 189 school districts have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up one from the previous week.
They also updated their maps and tables displaying COVID-19 vaccination rates by public school district, community, and ZIP code, using Arkansas Department of Health data current as of last Monday.