Story at a glance
- Researchers and public health experts have demonstrated that wearing face masks decreases the spread of the coronavirus.
- While some localities and states have mandated masks in public, others have resisted.
- In several counties in Kansas and other states where masks are mandated, new coronavirus cases have decreased.
With some states enforcing mask mandates and others refusing to do so, the United States is putting the advice of public health experts to the test in a real-time experiment.
In Kansas, 15 counties with mask mandates reduced coronavirus case numbers, Lee Norman, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told the Kansas City Star.
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“Some counties have been the control group with no mask and some counties have been the experimental group where masks are worn, and the experimental group is winning the battle. All of the improvement in the case development comes from those counties wearing masks,” Norman told the Kansas City Star.
Norman told the Kansas City Star that the counties which have enforced the mandate represent about two-thirds of the state’s population and tend to have denser urban populations as well as a greater proportion of people from underrepresented communities that are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The data in Kansas is supported by research that shows the risk of coronavirus infection can be reduced by 65 percent for the person wearing the mask. A June study found that more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were averted by May 22 as a result of state government mandates for face mask use in public issued by fifteen states plus Washington, D.C.
Thirty-four states now mandate face-covering in public, including Kansas, but 80 percent of the state's counties have refused to follow the executive order issued by Gov. Laura Kelly. But the issue has been highly politicized, with some Republicans framing mask requirements as a threat to personal freedoms. In Georgia, where three major cities require face masks in public, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit against the Democratic mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, over the mandate. Just next door, however, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama — a Republican — issued a statewide mask order last month.
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