No one likes the feeling of a square piece of fabric blocking their airway. However, the small discomfort of wearing a mask has been shown to drastically protect individuals from the spread of COVID. 

The health and safety of North Dakota’s teachers, faculty, staff, and students, as well as the ability to keep our schools and campuses open, hinges on everyone doing their part by wearing a mask. 

There’s a lot of research available that proves how masks work to decrease the spread of the COVID, which according to the CDC is now the third leading cause of death in 2020, surpassing accidents, injuries and diabetes.

Here’s What We Know 

A recent meta-analysis done by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation took every study published on the protective effect of masks and reanalyzed all the data. 

The analysis found that if 95% of people wear cloth masks when they’re in public spaces, it reduces transmission by at least 30%. This sounds like a modest improvement, but when each COVID positive individual infects 30% fewer people, the results add up quickly.

The cumulative impact a 30% decrease can have on our school and university systems would be massive. Let’s compare two scenarios in an educational setting to see how. 

In the first school, no one is wearing a mask and each infected person is passing the virus to 1.03 others. 

100 infected students and teachers will infect 103 others. Those 103 will infect 106 others, who then infect 109, etc. Within 35 days, 889 people will likely have contracted the virus. 

On the second campus, 95% of students and teachers are wearing masks. Instead of infecting 1.03 others, each infected student or teacher passes the virus on to only 0.72 others. 

100 infected individuals infect 72 others. These 72 infect 52 people and so on. By the seventh week of school, only 10 new people are infected, and 332 people have contracted the virus altogether. 

Further Evidence in Support of Masks 

Despite everyone’s best efforts, classrooms and campuses are inherently difficult settings to practice things like social distancing. Each age group presents unique challenges from a COVID prevention standpoint. 

However, there are many case studies that have recently been done that may give us hope and convince us to wear masks both in classrooms and on campuses. 

A recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal studied a man who flew from China to Toronto while exhibiting COVID symptoms including a dry cough. He wore a mask through the duration of the flight and, despite his symptoms, all 25 people closest to him on the flight tested negative for COVID. 

Similarly, in late May, a Missouri hair stylist worked eight shifts over nine days despite showing COVID symptoms. She later tested positive for the virus, but not before she directly exposed 84 customers who had been near her. But because both the hair stylist and customers wore face masks, none of those who had been in contact with her reported a positive case. 

What About Personal Choice? 

Mask wearing has sparked intense political debates with many individuals opting not to wear masks in the name 

of personal freedom and choice. 

However, it’s not unusual for public schools to regularly impose limits on a student’s personal choices in the form of dress codes, etc. Wearing a baseball cap is commonly forbidden in K-12 schools, for example, yet no one is put in harm’s way if a student dons a hat. By contrast, wearing a mask can help save lives and get our communities back to a state of normalcy. 

That’s why North Dakota United implores our teachers, faculty, staff, students and parents to please wear masks whenever they enter into indoor public spaces — not because of any political stance, but rather because we want to keep our communities safe by decreasing the spread of COVID. That way we can get back to things like sporting events, afterschool activities, 

and in-person classes. 

It’s important that we all take a pledge to protect each other by wearing a mask every time we are inside, especially if we hope to keep our schools and campuses open — which is a goal we should all be able to get behind.