• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 11 comments on BU’s Mask and Vaccination Mandates Prevented Spread of COVID in Classes, Research Finds

  1. The BU community was coerced into providing the data that was used in this study.

    The university required each of us to use BU’s COVID testing facilities once or twice a week, presumably at the direction of its medical advisory committee (some of whom appear to be coauthors of the study), and under threat of employment loss or distancing from campus.

    It is unconscionable that this coerced data will be used for academic research.

  2. I must be missing something. The study said that the transmission in “masked, vaccinated” classrooms was low. I don’t think it showed that masking, vaccination, or anything else is responsible for this number. They didn’t have the data to even ask that question.

    Mr. Barlow, you should change the title of this piece because it misrepresents the study.

  3. Weird how the study was only conducted from Sept 2021-Dec 2021, just before the MASSIVE spike in cases on campus that hit in January of 2022, which continued until BU pulled down the COVID data dashboard. How do the case numbers from. Jan 2022 compare to Jan 2021? Case rates before vaccine mandates vs after is pretty eye-opening, but I suppose deleting that dashboard makes it easier for BU to bury this information.


  4. Discontinuing the in-class mask mandate and discontinuing the testing requirements seems very similar to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you aren’t getting wet” at that moment. Why stop doing the very things that are protecting us?

    With BA-5 on the rise, BU should keep in place the practices that worked last year. Pretending the pandemic is over is courting disaster.

    Please, bring back the weekly testing and mask mandates to keep us all safe.

  5. Crazy that this research, funded and carried out by BU, found that the BU policies were extremely effective. The data period conveniently ends right before the huge spike in covid cases during January 2021. Any student or faculty at BU during this time knows that the covid policies were a complete joke, an extreme inconvenience to students, and an overall misuse of resources and money.

    Great job guys!

  6. How does this prove that vaccinations and masking helped at all? Anyone with basic scientific literacy would be able to understand that this study shows that in-class transmission at BU was low– not a causative link between vaccines/masking and low transmission. This seems like retroactive maneuvering/reframing to justify forcing vaccination/masking on a student body for whom Covid-19 posed an incredibly minor risk. In reality, transmission could’ve been just as low without any of these so-called protective measures, and that’s without questioning the underlying assumption that low transmission is a worthwhile goal (do we care about reducing transmission of the common cold?). I, for one, will not be re-muzzling, no matter what the “experts” say.

    1. It is wonderful that the risk is minor for most students. It would be heartening if some thought would be given to the older faculty and staff that need to be amongst the mask and vaccine averse students, that we might continue to pay our mortgages in good health.

      I would like to highlight this juxtaposition:

      “Anyone with basic scientific literacy […]”

      “In reality, transmission could’ve been just as low without any of these so-called protective measures […]”

      In reality, and without considering this study, mask and vaccine effectiveness are proven. I know this because of my basic scientific literacy, just as I know that BU’s decision to stop both the mask mandate and testing at the same time denied us an opportunity to compare directly related datasets for the study in question.

      “[…] do we care about reducing transmission of the common cold?”

      No, because the common cold doesn’t kill people. Covid-19 is still killing people. Also, uncontrolled spread of this disease breeds more variants, which are more effective at evading the vaccines we have, as BA.5 has shown.

      Earnestly, I recommend further study of what constitutes scientific literacy, and what experts have to offer society. Public health is everyone’s responsibility.

      1. “It would be heartening if some thought would be given to the older faculty and staff that need to be amongst the mask and vaccine averse students..”

        With all due respect, your generation got to enjoy your youth unmasked, unrestricted. You got to spend ages 17-21 experiencing the world, meeting people, making lifelong memories. Living. A society is truly sick when the elderly are unable to sacrifice ANYTHING so that young people can enjoy the same things they did. Oh, you’re worried about your mortgage? I’m 20. What are the odds of me ever becoming a homeowner, as I graduate into the messed up economy that pro-restriction Boomers partially enabled? You can see why I struggle to care.

        “In reality, and without considering this study, mask and vaccine effectiveness are proven.” No, these things are not PROVEN. They are under investigation. Unless you have a rigorous mathematical proof showing that masks and vaccines “work”, you have no basis for this claim.

        “Public health is everyone’s responsibility.” No, no it’s not. My responsibility is to myself, my family and my friends, and my future children. You won’t be alive in 2050; you won’t face the consequences of a generation raised in masks, denied vital social interaction, facing economic hardships, never taught how to be resilient or to take responsibility in the face of hardship (why would you do that, when you can simply control others?). I will. And earnestly, that’s a future that I choose to opt out of, even if that means the generations older than me will have to learn for the first time how ahistorical and unnatural their fear of death is.

  7. I will try this again as my first post was never posted. @Staff what @Liz C was saying about scientific literacy is that the scientific paper itself did not study (test) whether any of the mitigation strategies employed actually worked. They just looked at whether BU saw a lot of cases of covid-19 spread within classroom (they didn’t). Since they didn’t have any control groups (classrooms where there was no masking or improved HVAC or no vax) you cannot jump to the conclusion that the author of this news story has jumped to. Its very misleading and scientifically inaccurate to say. You can’t assume anything in science. You have to hypothesize and test.

  8. Mask mandates do nothing to prevent the spread of diseases; wearing masks and being vaccinated (probably) does. It is important to make this distinction, as a mask/vax mandate only is a policy; a piece of paper, nothing more.
    Although it seems like a matter of semantics, behavior vs. coerced behavior, it is an important distinction. This article is written to justify coercing students into wearing masks and being vaccinated and marinates it in a sciencey argument.
    What if the university was to conduct a study to determine whether encouraging students to be vaccinated and wear masks (during covid/flu season) would have a similar effect? The vast majority of students are vaccinated and will get their boosters, and most will wear masks if asked. The health outcome may be very similar to coercing students’ behavior. It would improve students’ agency, protect bodily autonomy and show respect to students that may disagree with some of the university’s policies.

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