A Real-life Case for Wearing Masks
The data from Kansas are quite compelling
It continues to baffle me — as a critical care physician taking care of patients afflicted with COVID-19 — that there continues to be debate and controversy over wearing masks.
The science is clear that they work. There is no evidence they cause carbon dioxide to rise in the blood, and it is the one thing everyone can do to mitigate the spreading of SARS CoV-2.
Still, the controversy remains.
And so, is there another way to show that wearing masks really does mitigate the spread of SARS CoV-2? Enter researchers from the University of Kansas:
A mask mandate was instituted by the Governor of the State of Kansas this past summer. Counties in Kansas were allowed to opt out of the mandate. Dozens of counties did just that.
And so, researchers then compared the spread of COVID-19 in those counties with the mask mandate and those without. They found that, in the first two weeks after the mask mandate, cases rose in those counties with and without the mandate. After the two weeks, however, cases were steady and/or declined.
They then performed statistical analysis to control for social distancing. This analysis showed that the mask mandate decreased transmission between 50 and 61% in those counties that adopted the mask mandate.
Now, it is absolutely true that masks do not completely prevent the spread of COVID-19. No one has ever said that. It is, however, absolutely true that wearing masks slows transmission of the virus, and we now have real world data to back this up.
Why is this so important? Why do we in healthcare keep harping on wearing masks? Because look at our cases in the US:
We are on our way to a third wave, and we are heading there from an even higher baseline from that during the summer. And we haven’t even begun to have the truly cold weather of the Fall and Winter.
Deaths in the US have been steady, and in the last few days, the numbers seems to be rising:
Anything we can do to slow the spread of the disease will be welcome. When we decrease the spread, we decrease the number of hospitalizations. When we decrease the number of hospitalizations, we decrease the number of deaths.
It’s that simple. Masks really do save lives. And we now have real life, real world data from the state of Kansas to back this up.
Please, just wear a mask. It’s something we all can do for each other. And it is truly a matter of life and death.