(WKRG) — The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) says consistent and correct mask use in schools has helped reduce the number of cases of COVID-19, helped schools remain open to in-person learning in Alabama, and helped prevent the consequences of this serious disease.

Although cases of COVID-19 have declined in Alabama, almost 23 percent of cases are in the 0-17 age group and, of that number, almost 18 percent of cases are in school-age children. As of Monday, Sept. 27, at least 30 children were hospitalized in Alabama for COVID-19 and three were on ventilators.

Medical Officers and Pediatricians, Drs. Karen Landers and Wes Stubblefield of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), strongly advise all schools to apply all preventive measures to reduce COVID-19, including universal masking for students, teachers, staff and visitors; good hand hygiene; social distancing; environmental cleaning and good ventilation to reduce disease transmission.  

“Practicing preventive measures against COVID- 19 in schools is critical to keeping our kids in the classroom where they can learn in a safe environment,” said Dr. Stubblefield, former President of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a new member of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown mask use in schools is a critical strategy for preventing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2,  the virus that causes COVID-19. These studies can be viewed here and here.

Those studies published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found school districts without universal masking policies in place were more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks than other districts that did not implement mask policies. A conclusion stated, “Given the high transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, universal masking, in addition to vaccination of all eligible students, staff members and faculty and implementation of other prevention measures remains essential to COVID-19 prevention in K-12 settings.”

The Mayo Clinic Health System has debunked some common mask myths. Click here to read.

“I very much support keeping kids in classroom settings, and data reinforce the advisability of universal indoor masking in schools, along with other layered mitigation measures,” Dr. Landers said.

The Alabama K-12 COVID-19 School Dashboard can be viewed here. ADPH guidance for schools was updated Sept. 24. The new guidance includes case study examples to help schools and parents navigate specific incidents in responding to COVID-19.