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Florida Ag Commissioner’s analysis of school COVID-19 cases suggests mask mandates work

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Before Thursday’s vote by the state Board of Education on school mask mandates, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried held an event to say mask mandates in schools do work and that she had compiled case numbers from 33 school districts to prove it.

The data compiled by Fried comes from 33 local school district dashboards.

She said districts without mask mandates had 3.5 times as many cases as those that required masks from the start.

“This is indisputable evidence as if we already didn’t know, that masks work,” said Fried.

Our analysis of the 30 districts with complete data sets, found 4.7 percent of students contracted COVID since the start of the school year in districts with no mask mandate or that allowed parents to opt-out.

That’s compared to 2.2 percent in districts with strict mask mandates.

The numbers suggest mask mandates cut case rates in half.

There are 2.7 million students in the state.

Taking our findings to their logical extreme, nearly 127,000 students would have gotten COVID if there were no school mask mandates at all, compared to only about 60,000 if there had been a universal mask mandate.

“Ron DeSantis is lying to you about masks in schools,” said Fried.

But the Governor’s Office called the reliability of Fried’s data into question, pointing out there’s no way of verifying whether reported infections happened within a school.

They noted that the data doesn’t adjust for vaccination rates, previous infection rates, or community infection rates.

The Governor’s Office also highlighted that new cases among school-aged children and cases reported by districts have fallen drastically since school started.

The decline has been virtually identical regardless of school district masking policies.

We requested a full comparison of COVID infection rates in all 67 school districts from the Governor’s Office, but we have so far not received the data.