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

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — A North Carolina pediatrician has created a YouTube video urging school boards to adopt or maintain universal masks for students and classroom staff.

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

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

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

We contacted the partnership to ask if Langdon is interpreting these findings correctly.

“She’s right,” said Dr. Danny Benjamin, the co-chair of the partnership, in an email.

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The partnership looked at 100 school districts across the state, along with 14 charter schools operating from March through June under what the state calls Plan A: full, personalized instruction with masking and minimal physical distancing.

It found that in schools that adhered to those protocols, only about 1 in 3,000 students who attended in-person classes every day were infected in those buildings. It concerned 308 cases acquired by schools for pupils and 55 for staff.

Benjamin also pointed out an important distinction.

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

That number is much larger.

Benjamin said the data from the partnership showed that the infections of 6,484 students were traced to the community, not the schools themselves.

In other words, the data indicates that if those children contracted COVID-19, they did so outside the schools where masking was the norm — not at them.

“It’s just really a testament to how important and how useful masks are,” Langdon said in an interview with CBS 17.

She says she made the video because people who are pushing their local school boards to lift those rules may not be aware of the facts about masks.

“It’s quite difficult, I’m sure for those, those education board members arguing against large crowds of people who seem to be very angry and have signs and posters and protest, but maybe they don’t have access to all the actual information,” she said. “So the YouTube video was an effort to kindly offer some education out of a place of concern for these students and my daughter, who is a teacher in this local school system.”

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