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This event study looked at the association between mandated mask wearing and changes in COVID-19 growth rates between March 31 and May 22, 2020. The study found that, on a county level, mandating public use of face masks was associated with a reduction in daily growth rates of the infection. Use of face masks is estimated to represent close to 16% to 19% of the effects of other measures of social distancing, such as bans on large gatherings, sheltering in place, and the like.
As of May 22, estimates suggest that between 230,000 and 450,000 cases of COVID-19 may have been prevented, depending on when states passed the mandates.
This abstract is available on the publisher's site.
State policies mandating public or community use of face masks or covers in mitigating novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread are hotly contested. This study provides evidence from a natural experiment on effects of state government mandates in the US for face mask use in public issued by 15 states plus DC between April 8 and May 15. The research design is an event study examining changes in the daily county-level COVID-19 growth rates between March 31, 2020 and May 22, 2020. Mandating face mask use in public is associated with a decline in the daily COVID-19 growth rate by 0.9, 1.1, 1.4, 1.7, and 2.0 percentage-points in 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, and 21+ days after signing, respectively. Estimates suggest as many as 230,000-450,000 COVID-19 cases possibly averted By May 22, 2020 by these mandates. The findings suggest that requiring face mask use in public might help in mitigating COVID-19 spread. [Editor's Note: This Fast Track Ahead Of Print article is the accepted version of the peer-reviewed manuscript. The final edited version will appear in an upcoming issue of Health Affairs.].