Story at a glance

  • New data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the theory that COVID-19 mitigation measures and public health interventions reduce coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and mortality.
  • In Delaware, state-mandated stay-at-home orders and mask requirements were coupled with case investigations and contact tracing.
  • Researchers reviewed data on cases, contacts, isolation and quarantine completion.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms expectations about the effectiveness of stay-at-home orders, face coverings, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine to control a COVID-19 outbreak. The study looks at data from the state of Delaware during its first period of lockdowns in April through June.

In Delaware, the first coronavirus case was reported on March 11, according to the study. Community transmission started happening and public health officials began investigating cases. Statewide stay-at-home orders were effective from March 24 to June 1 and a statewide mask mandate began on April 28. Contact tracing started May 12.

The researchers found that all of these measures led to an 82 percent reduction in coronavirus cases, 88 percent reduction in hospitalizations and 100 percent reduction in mortality from late April to June. They note that there were steep declines in new cases after the mask mandate took effect in late April. It went from about 12 cases per 10,000 people in late April to about 4 cases per 10,000 people by June 1, according to a chart in the study. The authors suggest that the mask mandate and the contact tracing, which started later than the other measures, played an important role in bringing down cases and hospitalizations.


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Although the findings of this study are not unexpected, the results quantify the reduction in cases, hospitalizations and mortality in a specific region, in this case Delaware, that can be linked back to public health measures and when they were put in place. That said, the researchers report that 83 percent of people interviewed for contact tracing didn’t want to give or could not recall names of contacts. Some 22 percent of contacts were also unable to be contacted, limiting the effectiveness of contact tracing.


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Delaware is a small state relative to other states in the U.S., and that may have made it easier to compile all the data and analyze from various sources. This is not to say that this study is not helpful overall to guide the coronavirus response in other states. It does give an example of the benefits of state mandates for wearing masks and conducting investigations of cases.

For up-to-date information about COVID-19, check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For updated global case counts, check this page maintained by Johns Hopkins University or the COVID Tracking Project.

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Published on Nov 13, 2020