Study: Areas With Face Mask Mandates Have Fewer COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Study: Areas With Face Mask Mandates Have Fewer COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Given the choice of face masks or economic shutdowns to contain the spread, it seems like wearing face masks should be common sense.

A new analysis from Vanderbilt University researchers has discovered that coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Tennessee are considerably higher in areas that don’t have mask-wearing mandates.

When analyzing the data, the team found that in the state’s hospitals where less than 25 percent of patients came from counties with a mask mandate, hospitalizations had surged by more than 200 percent since July 1.

And hospitals in which 26 percent to 50 percent of patients were from counties with mask mandates witnessed their hospitalizations climb by roughly 100 percent since July 1.

However, in hospitals with 75 percent of patients from areas with mask mandates, there was virtually no change in the hospitalization rate since July 1.

“It’s very clear that areas where masking requirements have remained in place have seen much lower growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations,” John Graves, one of the authors of the study and an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt, said in a release.

The researchers noted that areas that have incorporated mask requirements may also have “greater changes in other community behavior”—such as social distancing and proper hand hygiene—that could reduce transmission of the coronavirus. Moreover, the lower hospitalization rates may not be attributable to masks alone.

“The best way to manage the economic fallout is to definitively manage the virus using proven strategies that can break chains of transmission,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Only when transmission is reduced will individuals feel comfortable participating in activities that support the local economy as they did before the pandemic.”

According to a recent research that was published in Nature Medicine, universal mask use could prevent nearly 130,000 deaths by the end of February in the United States.

“We think the key point here is that there’s a huge winter surge coming,” Christopher Murray, a lead author on the paper and the director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said in a press briefing.

The next wave likely isn’t fully preventable, but “expanding mask use is one of the easy wins for the United States.”

The research also projected that there could be about half a million coronavirus-related deaths in the country by the end of February, with populous states like California, Texas, and Florida potentially facing high levels of illness and deaths.

Current mask use in the United States varies widely. Some states like New York and California have set strict rules on when to wear masks, but others have no specific requirements.

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have long touted the benefits of face masks and coverings in the ongoing battle against the virus.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters