Here’s a graph that shows how the highest percent of recent infections in Georgia – after schools opened beginning of August – is among the age group 10 – 17 years old.
We know there is variability in vaccination rates and school mask mandates across the state, so I looked at the following Metro Atlanta counties that have different vaccination rates and mask mandates in their public K-12 schools. Here’s the list sorted from highest to lowest percent of the residents that are fully vaccinated, separated into two groups: with or without mask mandates in K-12 public schools.
- Fayette = 57% – NO K-12 Mask Mandate
- Cobb = 52% – NO K-12 Mask Mandate
- Forsyth = 51% – NO K-12 Mask Mandate
- Cherokee = 46% – NO k-12 Mask mandate
- Paulding = 34% – NO k-12 Mask Mandate
- Fulton = 51% – K-12 Mask Mandate
- Gwinnett = 50% K-12 Mask Mandate
- DeKalb = 49% K-12 Mask Mandate
- Clayton = 37% K-12 Mask Mandate
First, let’s see how Georgia is doing since Jan 1, 2021 in terms of infection rates per 100K residents. During the month of August, infection rates increased to the January 2021 peak levels during
Second, let’s add the counties with higher vaccination rates and k-12 mask mandates, namely DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett. As we can see in the graph, all of them have lower infection rates than the State
Third, let’s add the counties with higher vaccination rates but NO k-12 mask mandates, namely Cobb, Fayette, and Forsyth. I will only keep Fulton as a representative county of the first group (just to declutter the graph. Higher vaccination rate in Fayette makes it closer to the Mask Mandate counties but still worse infection rates.
Fourth, how about Clayton County, which has lower vaccination rates (only 37%), but a K-12 mask mandate?
Its infection rates are on par with Fayette, which has a much higher vaccination rate but no mask mandate.
Finally, let’s look at counties with NO mask mandate and lower vaccination rates, namely Paulding and Cherokee. Both, particularly Paulding (34% Vaccination Rates), have infection rates that are similar or higher than Georgia.
ETA: Looking at the school age level by county to measure the infection rates among the K-12 students reveals the same conclusion. Here’s a comparison between Paulding (low vax and no K-12 mask mandate), Fulton (higher vax rate and K-12 mask mandate), and Cobb (high vax rate but no K-12 mask mandate). For age group 5 – 10 (unvaccinated group so that variable is irrelevant) reveals that during the August 2021 peak infection in Metro Atlanta. Infection rate among that age group measured as cases per 100k residents are: Fulton: 497.5 vs. Cobb: 704.8 vs. Paulding: 877.7
In conclusion, mask mandates + high vaccination rates are needed to control infections, especially that children under 12 are not eligible for vaccinations yet. I realize that masks are not a way-of-life, but when infection rates are high and vaccination rates have not reached the threshold for herd immunity, masks are an extremely effective tool at preventing high community spread that leads to an overloaded hospital system as we saw in August and September in Georgia and a rise in deaths.
Note that 95-97% of hospitalized patients and of deaths are among the unvaccinated.
More analysis of COVID-19 metrics in Georgia can be accessed through this Tableau Dashboard
State and county level infections data Source: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report
School age level data on infections graph source: https://chhs-gt.shinyapps.io/age_dashboard/