Healthcare

CDC study links masks to fewer COVID deaths

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that mask mandates were linked to a decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

The study also found that allowing restaurant dining was linked to increases in cases and deaths.

The death growth rate was 1.9 percentage points less 81 to 100 days after a mask mandate, the study found, with smaller declines before then, starting as soon as one to 20 days afterward. Case growth rates declined up to 1.8 percentage points.

On the other hand, allowing restaurant dining was linked to a 3-point increase in the death growth rate 81 to 100 days later. There were no meaningful increases until 60 days after restaurant dining was allowed. Case growth rates were about 1 percentage point higher starting 41 days after dining was allowed.  

The study examined the period March 1 to Dec. 31 of last year. It did not make a distinction between indoor and outdoor dining. Experts have long said outdoor dining is safer, given the ability of the virus to spread through poorly ventilated indoor air. 

The study provides additional empirical backing for mask mandates and limiting restaurant dining, at a time when some states are opening. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) this week ended his state's mask mandate, as did Mississippi's governor. 

"Mask mandates and restricting any on-premises dining at restaurants can help limit community transmission of COVID-19 and reduce case and death growth rates," the study concluded. "These findings can inform public policies to reduce community spread of COVID-19."

Coronavirus restrictions have been thrust to the center of the debate anew by the moves in Texas and Mississippi, two states that also lifted capacity limits on restaurants and other businesses. They cited progress in the vaccination campaign in making the changes.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday that the data "serves as a warning about prematurely lifting these prevention measures." 

Experts largely say there is soon coming a time when restrictions can be lifted because of widespread vaccinations, but the country is not quite there yet, and they are urging some restrictions to remain in place until a larger share of the country is vaccinated.

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