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Arkansas health officials share new data showing impact of masks in schools

The research shows that the districts with mask mandates have 25% fewer COVID cases in both adults and kids compared to districts without one.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new study from the Arkansas Department of Health gives us a better look into how mask mandates impact the inside of schools. 

It was a major talking point at Monday's trial surrounding the state's ban on mask mandates. 

After lawsuits, debates, and a lot of back-and-forth conversations, the Arkansas Department of Health released a new analysis that shows the impact masks are having in classrooms, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Dillaha.

"Now we have our own data that we can show that it works in the school setting here in Arkansas," she said.

Dillaha said even though the study is still ongoing, it's already showing that the districts with mask mandates have 25% fewer COVID cases in both adults and kids, compared to districts without one.

"That's very significant in terms of not only the statistics, but in terms of the impact on the school and the community," she said.

The study started this school year and included 233 school districts across the state. 

According to Dillaha, there were certain factors they wanted to look at before the tracking began.

"Which schools have mask mandates, when they implemented them. If they have removed the mask mandate, when they were removed," she said.

From there, ADH took the cases that the schools reported to them and began their analysis with several other things taken into consideration. 

A school's vaccination rate and current community spread were considered. According to Dillaha, the two were observed to make sure the factors didn't give a false impact.

"So, when we do that analysis of the difference in the cases, we can be confident that it's actually showing the affect of the masks," she said.

Dillaha hopes once this research is done, it can be a useful tool for school districts as they continue to decide what's best for their students.

"It will give the leadership of the school districts, and the schools an opportunity to make an informed decision about how they want to carry on with the next semester," she said.

ADH still has to finish this analysis and submit it to be published. 

Dillaha said they want to do this quickly and are hoping the research can be fully released before the end of this year.