What new COVID-19 studies reveal

By The Health News Team | September 10, 2021
Scientists in protective gear studying COVID-19

There’s a saying that you can find a study to support just about any opinion. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that the sources you are turning to are reliable.

According to Harvard University, the most reliable sources are those that have been vetted by scholars and experts in the field. It is vital to determine the qualifications of the source, the intent of the source, the scope of the source and the timeliness of the source.

New studies related to COVID-19 — all from highly reliable sources — offer current information addressing some of the top concerns and points of dispute surrounding COVID-19. Here’s what they found:

Surgical masks reduce COVID-19 spread.
According to researchers at Stanford Medicine and Yale University, wearing a surgical face mask over the mouth and nose is an effective way to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19 in community settings. What’s more, providing free masks, informing people about the importance of covering both the mouth and nose, reminding people in person when they were unmasked in public, and role-modeling by community leaders tripled regular mask usage. The researchers found that among the more than 350,000 people studied in Bangladesh, the risk for symptomatic infection was reduced 11% through surgical mask-wearing. People ages 50 to 60 were 23% less likely to develop COVID-19 if they wore a surgical mask, and those over 60 were 35% less likely to become infected if they wore one.

The COVID-19 vaccines are effective.
According to an article published in The Lancet, an internationally trusted peer-reviewed medical journal, the vaccines currently available offer strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization. Data collected on more than 1 million people in the U.K. through July 2021 show that less than 0.2% of those who are vaccinated experienced breakthrough infections, with older adults with compromised immune systems and people living in areas with low vaccination rates at greater risk. Of all the individuals who became infected after vaccination, only 6% reported having symptoms. Compared with unvaccinated people, people who were vaccinated were half as likely to have “long COVID,” and far less likely to have more than five symptoms in the first week of illness or need to be hospitalized. In fact, vaccination reduces the risk of hospitalization by approximately 70%.

People — especially children — with COVID-19 are at greater risk for myocarditis.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that individuals of all ages who have COVID-19 are 16 times more likely to experience myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a viral infection — than those who have not had a coronavirus infection. Severe myocarditis can lead to heart failure, abnormal heartbeat and sudden death. What’s more, the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed out that the study results also showed that children under age 16 with COVID-19 are 37 times more likely to experience myocarditis than kids who have not been infected. While a slightly elevated risk for myocarditis among recipients of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has been observed, particularly in males age 12 to 29, experts have determined that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination clearly outweigh the risks of myocarditis after vaccination.

Real-life study combines several lessons 
Further strengthening the findings of some of the above research, a recent CDC study — in cooperation with local health authorities, University of California, Berkeley and other UC schools — of a COVID-19 outbreak in an elementary school in Marin County showed the importance of vaccination, masking and other COVID-19 prevention methods. Over three weeks in May and June 2021, there were 26 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and their contacts following their exposure to an unvaccinated, infected teacher.

The teacher reported feeling mild symptoms, such as nasal congestion and fatigue, but assumed the symptoms were related to allergies and continued to teach for a few more days. Half of the students in one classroom were infected after the teacher removed their face mask to read aloud to the class, with most of the infected students sitting in the first two rows of desks. Six other students in another classroom and eight family members of students from both classes were also infected. The teacher stopped teaching when they experienced a cough, fever and headache, and tested positive for COVID-19.

These findings highlight the importance of vaccinating school staff members who are in close, indoor contact with children — many who are still ineligible for vaccination — masking indoors, and increased vaccination of all who are eligible, including children age 12 and over. In addition to masking and vaccination, following prevention strategies, getting tested, and staying home when not feeling well are important measures we can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19, protect kids and ensure a safe return to schools everywhere.

Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp.

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