Fact check: In pediatrician’s video pushing for masks in schools, the numbers add up


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina pediatrician created a YouTube video to urge school boards to adopt or keep universal masking for students and staff in classrooms.

We took a closer look at one of the statistics she uses in her argument.

THE CLAIM: In her 12-minute video, Dr. Lori Langdon — a pediatrician in Lillington, North Carolina — said universal masking “could curb transmission of the COVID-19 virus to 1 in 3,000.”

THE FACTS: She cited a study by the ABC Science Collaborative, a team of doctors from Duke University and the University of North Carolina that spent much of the pandemic studying ways to conduct in-person instruction safely.

We reached out to the collaborative to ask if Langdon is interpreting those findings the right way.

“She is correct,” Dr. Danny Benjamin, the co-chairman of the collaborative, said in an email.

The collaborative looked at 100 school districts across the state along with 14 charter schools that from March to June were operating under what the state calls Plan A: full, in-person instruction with masking and minimal physical distancing.

It found that in schools that stuck to those protocols, only approximately 1 in 3,000 students who attended in-person classes every day were infected while in those buildings. This entailed 308 school-acquired cases among students and 55 for staff.

Benjamin also pointed out an important distinction.

Many school districts report their total cases, as opposed to the number of them acquired in the school buildings.

That number is much larger.

Benjamin said the collaborative’s data showed the infections of 6,484 students were traced to the community, and not to the schools themselves.

In other words, the data indicate that if those children were catching COVID-19, they were doing so outside of the schools where masking was the norm – not in them.

“It’s just really proof of how important and how helpful masks are,” Langdon said in an interview with CBS 17.

She says she made the video because people putting pressure on their local school boards to lift those rules may not know the facts about masks.

“It’s kind of hard, I’m sure for those, those education board members to argue against large crowds of people who seem to be very angry and have signs and posters and protesting, but maybe they don’t have access to all the actual information,” she said. “So the YouTube video was an attempt to kindly offer some education from a place of caring about these students and my daughter, who’s a teacher in this local school system.”

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