BU’s Mask and Vaccination Mandates Prevented Spread of COVID in Classes, Research Finds

Some Boston University employees and students feared a COVID-19 outbreak might follow the return to in-person learning in fall 2021. But a new study of the University’s 33,000 students across 140,000 class meetings found that BU’s classroom mask mandate and vaccination requirements for students and employees kept the virus at bay and the community safe.

“Going back to full-occupancy, in-person teaching…did not lead to SARS-CoV-2 transmission in class,” says John Connor, a BU School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology and a research faculty member at the University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories. Connor was a coauthor of the study, published this week in the online JAMA Network Open.

BU and the Boston University Genome Science Institute funded the research, which used surveillance testing, epidemiology, and analysis of the virus’ genome to determine likely transmission in the class meetings.

“This study provides solid evidence that the disease mitigation events used by BU limited transmission in the classroom, something teachers and students everywhere would want to know,” Connor says. The researchers shared their work with the national Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

BU discontinued its classroom mask mandate in May, while still requiring masks on the BU Shuttle and in all healthcare settings. “We still encourage anyone who is at risk for severe disease to wear a high-quality, well-fitted mask in crowded places,” says Hannah Landsberg (Sargent’13, SPH’13), associate director of Student Health Services, who participated in the JAMA study.

Connor discussed the findings on Monday with The Brink.

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