A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week found that while masking children does not significantly reduce COVID-19, it does reduce the “effects of structural racism”.
The 15-week observational study showed that two Massachusetts school districts maintained mask mandates for three months after statewide mandates were lifted. School districts that lifted mask mandates in schools saw an increase of 45 COVID-19 cases per 1,000 students.
But just as importantly, the Boston researchers conclude, masking children helps reduce racism.
“We believe that universal masking may be especially useful for mitigating effects of structural racism in schools, including potential deepening of educational inequities,” write the study’s authors.
According to the American Medical Association, “structural racism” - which is related to “institutional racism” and “systemic racism” - "refers to the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care and criminal justice.”
The rationale behind the study’s conclusion is that districts which forced students to wear masks and had less COVID-19 had higher percentages of students who were Black and “Latinx,” a word considered offensive by most Hispanics.
“[T]hese districts had higher percentages of low-income students, students with disabilities, and students who were English-language learners, as well as higher percentages of Black and Latinx students and staff,” said the study.
Notably, the researchers studied mask mandates, not mask use.
The New York Times enthusiastically promoted the study in an article titled, “Masks Cut Covid Spread in Schools, Study Finds.”
“The bottom line: Masking mandates were linked with significantly reduced numbers of Covid cases in schools,” wrote Roni Caryn Rabin.
While wisely ignoring the study’s racial suggestions, the article represents another shift in the New York Times’ narrative.
In June, after two years of advocating for mask mandates, the Times ran an article titled, “Why Masks Work But Mandates Haven’t,” stating that “mask mandates in schools also seem to have done little to reduce the spread.”
“Because masks work and mandates often don’t, people can make their own decisions,” the article read. “Anybody who wants to wear a snug, high-quality mask can do so and will be less likely to contract Covid.”
“Different people can reasonably make different choices,” the author concluded.