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Wood County Health Department data shows masks are working to reduce COVID-19 cases in schools

Data shows masks and vaccinations reduce COVID-19 transmission in schools, according to Health Commissioner Benjamin Robison.

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, 47 Wood County students and five staff members have come down with COVID-19 after being exposed inside Wood County schools.

Nearly 75% of them were unvaccinated and unmasked.

Many school districts across Northwest Ohio started the year with mask mandates in effect. Those that didn't began issuing mandates weeks later, as the Delta variant began to cause a surge in cases among students, something that was not seen last year. 

Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Robison says that a month and a half into the school year, they have a clearer idea of what works.

"What we are finding is that not only the national data but the local data has indicated that masks and vaccinations reduce the risk of spread in schools," said Robison.

At a county health board meeting last week, a Perrysburg parent asked if there was data to support that masks were helping in her kid's district. 

Robison released a study on Friday showing that among the 52 positive covid cases from exposure in Wood County schools, most were among unmasked and/or unvaccinated people.

"It was about 3.3 times more likely to be a case compared to those who were vaccinated or masked when you were 12 years or older," said Robison, "and about twice as likely to be a case if you were unmasked compared to those that were masked in the elementary age."

Robison says it's clear that masks are helping to keep kids in the classroom, where we know in-person instruction is the best. 

Cases are declining in Ohio and nationally, and Robison says he's hopeful that trend will continue, but he also believes preventative measures like masks should stay in place for now.

"As we take up these precautions, maybe for the last time, we'll be able to get ourselves beyond what we're experiencing now," he said. "And the national projections is maybe by this spring these things will be able to be behind us for good."

At the start of the school year, Wood County Health Department outlined the following prevention measures to minimize school transmission:  

  • Wearing masks in schools
  • Maintaining as much distance as possible
  • Staying home when sick and testing for anyone who could have COVID
  • Identifying exposed individuals and staying home while at risk for becoming ill
  • Regularly washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, maximizing ventilation and cleaning and disinfecting.

“Our schools bring together students of all backgrounds and walks of life—students who themselves may be more at risk of serious illness, or who have family members who are more at risk,” said Robison. “We want to create an environment in our schools where everyone, including kids who have underlying conditions or at-risk family members, feels safe.”

Beginning next week, Wood County Health Department will publish data on school transmission every two weeks as part of its regular Thursday COVID-19 updates. Robison says his department will also be releasing more data this week on how effective vaccinations have been in reducing cases in schools among teens 12 and older who are eligible for the vaccine.

The Wood County Health Department welcomes all patients, including uninsured or underinsured clients, regardless of their ability to pay, and it accepts most third-party insurance. For more information, visit woodcountyhealth.org.