NC Superintendent opposes Duke scientists’ recommendations on masks in schools

Just weeks after touting the group’s report on 2020-21 COVID spread in NC schools, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Schools Catherine Truitt has come out in stark opposition to the ABC Collaborative’s recommendations on masking for the upcoming school year, saying, “I want students in school this fall, unmasked.”

The ABC Collaborative is a group of National Institutes of Health-funded North Carolina scientists and physicians, primarily from Duke University, who are working to advise school leaders on COVID-safe practices.

At the end of June the group released a report on COVID mitigation measures in NC schools during the 2020-21 school year, finding the schools “did an outstanding job preventing within-school transmission of COVID‐19.”

Superintendent Truitt released a statement citing the group’s report as evidence that schools could successfully operate during the pandemic and advocating for local control over operational decisions such as masking.

But Truitt abandoned her call for local decision making on masks in a recent conversation with NC GOP Chairman Michael Watley, calling on all North Carolina school districts to take the masks off:

Today the co-chairs of the ABC Collaborative, Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman and Dr. Danny Benjamin, published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “We studied one million students. This is what we learned about masking.”

In the piece, Zimmerman and Benjamin cite universal masking as a “close second” behind vaccination as the best way to prevent COVID-19, warning “If we send students to school without masks, we increase their risk of acquiring COVID-19. Some could suffer illness or die.”

After pointing to recent outbreaks of the virus among unmasked, unvaccinated youth, the scientists asked:

“With the evidence now clear that universal masking is linked to lower spread, why not require universal masking? Why seek to gather hundreds of unvaccinated, unmasked individuals in an enclosed space for several hours a day, five days a week?”

It’s a question North Carolina Superintendent of Schools Catherine Truitt needs to answer.

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