What We’re Reading: CDC Updates Mask Guidance; Racial Disparities in Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths; Mandatory Mental Health Studies Considered

February 11, 2021
AJMC Staff

CDC updates its guidance to reflect best mask-wearing practices; study highlights racial disparities in nursing home coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths; North Dakota to consider mandatory mental health studies in schools.

CDC Updates Mask Recommendations

A series of experiments conducted by the CDC concluded that wearing 2 masks is better than 1 in slowing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Associated Press reports. Researchers spaced 2 artificial heads 6 feet apart and checked to see how many coronavirus-sized particles emitted by one were inhaled by the other. A single mask, either surgical or cloth, blocked around 40% of the particles traveling toward the head breathing in, while a cloth mask worn on top of a surgical mask boosted that total to 80%. However, when both heads were double-masked, over 95% of particles were blocked. Updated CDC guidance reflects the findings, noting individuals can wear a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask or tighten single medical masks by knotting the ear loops and tucking in the sides.

Study Highlights Racial Disparities in Nursing Home Deaths

A cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open found nursing homes with the highest proportions of racial minority residents experienced COVID-19 death counts 3.3 times higher than those of facilities with the highest proportions of White residents. Several factors contributed to the finding, including larger nursing home size and higher infection burden in counties where nursing homes with high proportions of minority residents were located. Researchers highlighted the importance of ensuring that the process of vaccine distribution includes efforts to reach communities of color to help address existing inequities. The study was limited in that it only allowed for racial classifications of White, Black and Hispanic individuals.

North Dakota Bill Would Mandate Mental Health Studies in Middle, High Schools

North Dakota lawmakers are weighing a proposal to make mental health studies mandatory for middle and high school students, as the state’s teen suicide rate is well above the national average, according to the Associated Press. Some schools do already have elements of mental wellness incorporated in curriculums, but a proposed bill would mandate that resources are made available and allow for districts to collaborate in the classroom and with distance learning to help rural schools get aid to students. The state has seen the second highest rise in suicide rates since 2000 in the United States at 84%, just behind the highest rise seen in New Hampshire at 88%.