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N Engl J Med ; 387(21): 1935-1946, 2022 11 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2106628


BACKGROUND: In February 2022, Massachusetts rescinded a statewide universal masking policy in public schools, and many Massachusetts school districts lifted masking requirements during the subsequent weeks. In the greater Boston area, only two school districts - the Boston and neighboring Chelsea districts - sustained masking requirements through June 2022. The staggered lifting of masking requirements provided an opportunity to examine the effect of universal masking policies on the incidence of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in schools. METHODS: We used a difference-in-differences analysis for staggered policy implementation to compare the incidence of Covid-19 among students and staff in school districts in the greater Boston area that lifted masking requirements with the incidence in districts that sustained masking requirements during the 2021-2022 school year. Characteristics of the school districts were also compared. RESULTS: Before the statewide masking policy was rescinded, trends in the incidence of Covid-19 were similar across school districts. During the 15 weeks after the statewide masking policy was rescinded, the lifting of masking requirements was associated with an additional 44.9 cases per 1000 students and staff (95% confidence interval, 32.6 to 57.1), which corresponded to an estimated 11,901 cases and to 29.4% of the cases in all districts during that time. Districts that chose to sustain masking requirements longer tended to have school buildings that were older and in worse condition and to have more students per classroom than districts that chose to lift masking requirements earlier. In addition, these 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. Our results support universal masking as an important strategy for reducing Covid-19 incidence in schools and loss of in-person school days. As such, we believe that universal masking may be especially useful for mitigating effects of structural racism in schools, including potential deepening of educational inequities. CONCLUSIONS: Among school districts in the greater Boston area, the lifting of masking requirements was associated with an additional 44.9 Covid-19 cases per 1000 students and staff during the 15 weeks after the statewide masking policy was rescinded.

COVID-19 , Health Policy , Masks , School Health Services , Universal Precautions , Humans , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Incidence , Poverty/statistics & numerical data , Schools/legislation & jurisprudence , Schools/statistics & numerical data , Students/legislation & jurisprudence , Students/statistics & numerical data , Health Policy/legislation & jurisprudence , Masks/statistics & numerical data , School Health Services/legislation & jurisprudence , School Health Services/statistics & numerical data , Occupational Groups/legislation & jurisprudence , Occupational Groups/statistics & numerical data , Universal Precautions/legislation & jurisprudence , Universal Precautions/statistics & numerical data , Massachusetts/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control/legislation & jurisprudence , Communicable Disease Control/statistics & numerical data
Front Psychol ; 12: 712111, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1430728


COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge to human welfare. Indeed, we have witnessed people experiencing a rise of depression, acute stress disorder, and worsening levels of subclinical psychological distress. Finding ways to support individuals' mental health has been particularly difficult during this pandemic. An opportunity for intervention to protect individuals' health & well-being is to identify the existing sources of consolation and hope that have helped people persevere through the early days of the pandemic. In this paper, we identified positive aspects, or "silver linings," that people experienced during the COVID-19 crisis using computational natural language processing methods and qualitative thematic content analysis. These silver linings revealed sources of strength that included finding a sense of community, closeness, gratitude, and a belief that the pandemic may spur positive social change. People's abilities to engage in benefit-finding and leverage protective factors can be bolstered and reinforced by public health policy to improve society's resilience to the distress of this pandemic and potential future health crises.