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Missouri's attorney general made several claims on masks in schools and the spread of the virus. We fact-checked them.

"We've had schools in Missouri open during the highest surges of the pandemic back in the wintertime and schools operated safely,” said Dr. Jason Newland.
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he's following scientific guidance and defending a lawsuit he filed this week to ban mandatory masking in schools. We checked his claims.

"Absolutely take this seriously,” said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. “I think people armed with the facts is important."

When Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed suit against Columbia Public Schools over a mandatory masking policy he made a number of claims about masks and the spread of COVID-19.

Masks in schools

"There just isn't any indication by any studies or widespread studies that masking is really effective,” said Schmitt.

Dr. Kristin Sohl of the Missouri Branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics there are scientific studies that say Schmitt is wrong.

"There's a really good one out from the University of North Carolina that does show that there are definite benefits to masking,” said Dr. Kristin Sohl.  “In fact, there's a 75% reduction in the spread of COVID-19 when you're in a classroom and you're masked."

Mask mandates

Schmitt compared St. Louis City and St. Louis County. The City of St. Louis is currently under a mask mandate.

The mask mandate that was initially imposed in St. Louis County was held up when a judge ordered a temporary injunction on the order.

"St. Louis City has a mask mandate and their cases are up 11%,” said Schmitt. “In St. Louis County, we won that lawsuit in St. Louis County, and their cases are down 18%."

In this instance, it appears Attorney General Schmitt is partially correct.

On August 3, when Schmitt won a restraining order against St. Louis County’s mask mandate, there were 366 new cases of COVID-19 in St. Louis County compared to 255 on August 23 when the last numbers were reported.

But in St. Louis City confirmed COVID-19 cases have also gone down over the same time frame dropping from 71 to 25.

COVID-19 in children

"In Missouri thankfully there have been no kids under the age of 10 who have died of COVID, but there have been 5 under the age of 18," Schmitt said.

Using the metrics on the Missouri COVID dashboard it appears this claim is accurate.

"We've had schools in Missouri open during the highest surges of the pandemic back in the wintertime and schools operated safely,” said Dr. Jason Newland of Washington University.

Newland says there’s a scientific reason why the numbers were so low.

"They had transmission rates of 1% or less by having mitigation strategies in place that included masking, using distancing, washing our hands, and staying home when we're sick,” said Newland.

"We have to do more of these layers of protection so we can stop the spread,” said Dr. Sohl.