I want to commend Superintendent Jeff Nichols and the members of the Sag Harbor Board of Education for keeping Sag Harbor schools open and relatively undisrupted over the past year.
Through my work, I have conversations on a nearly daily basis with people around the country who have to navigate COVID-driven school closures and remote learning challenges that we, in Sag Harbor, have successfully avoided.
There appears to be some misunderstanding in our community about the effectiveness and efficacy of masks and mask mandates in schools. In short, masks work at reducing the amount of COVID transmission in a school environment.
Multiple studies from the beginning of the 2021-22 school year — before the rise of the much more contagious omicron variant — demonstrate this reality. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-led study from July and August in Arizona found: “After adjusting for potential described confounders, the odds of a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak in schools without a mask requirement were 3.5 times higher than those in schools with an early mask requirement.”
Another CDC study looked at 520 counties across the U.S. from July to September and found that those without mask requirements had a transmission rate that was more than double the rate in counties with mask mandates. And a study released in October focusing on schools in Michigan found that “virus spread was 62 percent higher in school districts without mask rules.”
Moreover, according to the most recent data from the New York State Department of Health, less than 27 percent of elementary-aged schoolchildren in Suffolk County have had at least one vaccine dose, and there are still a considerable number of children in Sag Harbor for whom vaccines are not available.
While I know that we are all tired of this pandemic and want it to end, the Sag Harbor School District has consistently made decisions supported by the science and in service of protecting the health of the broader community. There is no question that continuing a mask mandate in the schools meets both of those criteria.
Woiwode is the father of two Sag Harbor Elementary School students — Ed.
One fine body…