CDC Study Emphasizes Importance Of Mask Mandates, Safe Dining

On the heels of Texas and Mississippi lifting their statewide mask mandates and ditching other coronavirus safety measures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Friday suggesting that states should be doing the complete opposite.

The study closely examined COVID-19 cases, as well as hospitalization and death rates across the country, and found that mask mandates were associated with reductions in those figures, while on-site dining was associated with increases.

From March 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, for example, public mask mandates were associated with a 0.5 percentage point decrease in the daily growth rate of cases up to 20 days after the rule was put into place, the study found. Those reductions increased over time, shooting up to 1.8 percentage points 100 days after implementing the mask mandate. 

Rules allowing for restaurant dining, meanwhile, were associated with a 0.9 percentage point increase after 60 days of greenlighting that activity. That figure jumped to 1.2 percentage points after 80 days. The study, however, did not differentiate between indoor or outdoor dining, the latter of which infectious disease experts say is much safer than the former.

A sign about COVID-19 restrictions inside a T-Mobile store in Austin, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that the state will end its mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100% capacity on March 10. 

Several states have made moves to significantly decrease their COVID-19 safety measures, even though public health officials warn that case rates are still high and that the country could easily slip into another dark chapter of the pandemic. 

“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing Monday. 

Texas and Mississippi, in particular, are pushing the envelope by completely lifting their statewide mask mandates and largely returning to business as usual. Texas’ top health official revealed Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not consult him before announcing his plans, which include letting all businesses operate at full capacity. 

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