Study CDC Relied Upon for School Mask Mandates Was Authored by LA County Public Health Director’s Daughter

A “study” finding that COVID mitigation efforts in schools, including forced masking, were highly effective in stopping disease spread — and cited by the CDC and most states as the scientific basis for school mask mandates — was authored by LA County Office of Education bureaucrats, including the daughter of the county’s Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Although study authors are required to disclose any conflicts of interest — and Ferrer is given a shout-out in the acknowledgements — the study states that no conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Screenshot of Kaitlin Barnes’ CDC MMWR study

Kaitlin is not a physician like her mother. Barnes doesn’t have any scientific or doctoral background. Her professional background is a combination of her parents’ professions; Kenneth Barnes has had a long career in urban planning and community organizing. From an archived copy of Kaitlin’s website, which has been scrubbed (emphasis added):

Jamaica Plain is where she was raised. It’s a lively and diverse area of Boston. She attended Boston Public Schools, and then graduated from Boston Latin School. A Bachelor of Arts degree was earned. With a Major in Metropolitan Studies, and a Minor in Politics at New York University (2008) She focused her research on urban policy, race and racism as well health equity.. Kaitlin earned an M.A. Emerson College conferred Kaitlin a Master’s degree in Communication Management. She focused on communication management for stakeholder management, public diplomacy and place branding. She recently completed an M.B.A. at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business with a dual concentration in strategy & innovation and health sector management.

Barnes was hired by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in late 2020 as a “temporary project manager” in the Public Relations and Communications department. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Kaitlin worked at Boston University as the International Corporate Outreach Manager for Metropolitan College’s International division, and before that essentially as a communications director/community liaison for both Berklee College of Music and Emerson College, both in Boston. Her communications work included comms for a couple of political campaigns, including one that was run by Thomas Menino (former Boston Mayor).

Despite the fact that she has no prior experience in conducting any public health research, she got right to work on the study, which was a joint effort between LACOE and Ferrer’s department.

In August 2021 the study concluded that COVID was detected at lower rates in students who attended school during winter 2020-21 than those who didn’t attend LAUSD schools. These findings were also supported by the LAUSD protocol.

A rash of stories (LA Times, WebMD, The Guardian, CNN, US News & World Report) published around the time this study was released follow the same pattern: they lead with the story of a teacher who allegedly infected 26 people by reading to her students without wearing a mask, taking care to emphasize that the teacher was one of only two unvaccinated teachers in the school. These stories change, and then the story shifts: But, hey! LA County has just released a new study that shows how mandatory masking can work in schools. Rochelle Walensky, Director at the CDC mentioned this in a briefing.

Not a mention of the massive conflict of interest in any of those pieces, and only passing references to the study’s flaws.

Walensky’s comments during the August 27, 2021 White House press briefing, slamming those who did not want to comply with mask “recommendations,” featured this study, which was cited as scientific evidence that these protocols must be followed.

In part, she said:

We also have clear scientifically-backed guidance that offers a framework for schools to open and remain open for a safe and healthy learning environment in this unprecedented academic year ahead.

Adding to this body of evidence, two studies will be published in today’s MMWR that demonstrate the importance of consistent and correct use of these mitigation strategies, especially vaccination and universal masking.

We saw that layered prevention is a powerful tool in reducing COVID incidences in Los Angeles County.  Prevention efforts helped school-associated cases to remain lower than those in the community.

The winter peak saw a decrease in case rates for children and teens in schools that had safety protocols. This was three-and-a-half times the rate in the community.

In the LA County Study, schools were given layers of prevention to protect against COVID transmission in high-risk communities. [sic]They helped prevent COVID from getting into schools, as well as reducing the incidence of COVID in cases that did happen.

It turns out that a job as a project manager, likely paid with CARES Act funds, pays very well. Barnes received over $130,000 for his work in 2021.

Salary information for Barbara Ferrer’s daughter, Kaitlin Barnes. CREDIT: Transparent California/Screenshot


This department’s head is Elizabeth Graswich, a woman very fond Ferrer. Presumably Barnes must have disclosed on her job application that her mom was also a county worker. Graswich presumably knew.

Tweet from Elizabeth Graswich, head of the department at LACOE which employs Barbara Ferrer’s daughter.

It’s not a secret within LA County employee circles that Barnes is Ferrer’s daughter. Ferrer thanked her daughter in tears for helping her get through the stressful times of the pandemic, and presented her with the Woman-of-the Year award in May 2022.

Ferrer’s words after thanking her family underscore what we at RedState and other journalists such as Katy Grimes at California Globe, Bill Melugin at Fox, and John Phillips of KABC Radio have been saying since the early days of the pandemic.

Every so often, when the work seems particularly challenging, I’m reminded of something Dolores Huerta, phenomenal justice champion, shared when she asked us all to see every moment as an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.

This woman is not a scientist or a public health professional; she’s an activist pursuing her agenda by any means necessary. And that agenda isn’t limited to Los Angeles County.

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