The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally published a report confirming what we basically already knew: widespread mask wearing and mask mandates help to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
The CDC's report focuses on individual counties within Kansas, 24 of which accepted and adopted a mask mandate and 81 of which did not. The counties with a mask mandate saw a six percent decrease in new COVID-19 cases over time, while those without saw cases double as a weekly rolling average. Overall, the report suggests that encouraging — or forcing — people to wear masks helps get the pandemic under control.
"This adds to the growing body of evidence that says large, widespread masking helps to slow the spread of COVID," Indiana University School of Medicine professor Dr. Aaron Carroll, who didn't work on the report, told NPR.
The Kansas findings align with data from 15 other U.S. states that mandated masks, all of which experienced a drop in cases afterward, according to the CDC report. But Carroll warned NPR that the report may be an oversimplification, as factors unrelated to masks may have contributed to the dips in cases as well.
That said, the data makes a compelling case that wearing a mask helps as a protective measure, even if other variables, like increased physical distancing, also played a part.
"You wear masks because the evidence suggests it not only protects you from acquiring the infection," Columbia University infectious disease researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who also didn't contribute to the report, told NPR, "but it protects others around you."