This Research Shows the First Bit of Good Coronavirus News in Awhile

There is finally something to finally smile about amid these dire coronavirus numbers.

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The current state of the coronavirus pandemic has brought a flood of grim news updates. Whether it's the current surge of cases across the country or the nation's top immunologist saying there is "essentially no end in sight," there is no shortage of dire reports that can keep you up at night. Amid these bleak headlines, however, there is finally a bit of good news about coronavirus in which we can find some small measure of hope. Updated projections from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) show that the number of expected COVID-19 casualties in the next four months has gone down by roughly 5,000. That's 5,000 more friends, family members, and loved ones that are projected to be alive by November 1.

The reason? More people are wearing masks.

During a Wednesday interview with CNN, Ali H. Mokdad, PhD, professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, explained why the projected death toll is currently trending downward. "What I've seen is an increase in mask use, especially in states that have been hit by COVID-19—Texas, California, Florida, Arizona," he said. "And we're seeing a reduction in morbidity in these states. The improvement has been much higher in states where a mandate has been put in place."

mother putting mask on young daughter
Shutterstock/Tom Wang

The IHME's Healthdata.org has become a widely accepted resource for reliable projections that are used by the White House and media outlets alike. At the time of publication, it currently projects roughly 219,000 coronavirus-related fatalities by November 1, which is down from roughly 224,000 earlier in the week.

It also projects that a universal mask mandate—defined as 95 percent of all Americans wearing face coverings—would lead to an additional 35,000 lives saved by November 1. In his CNN interview, Mokdad said, "A mandate is very important and is helping, and a national mandate, of course, would do much better."

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IHME's updated projections reflect a growing body of evidence that mask-wearing significantly stems the spread of COVID-19. A June study out of Virginia Commonwealth University showed that countries that quickly enacted widespread mask use had far lower death rates than those that didn't. And research from the Philadelphia Inquirer in June found that states that only recommended their residents wear masks—without requiring them—saw coronavirus cases rise by 84 percent over a two-week period. By comparison, states with mask mandates saw cases fall 25 percent over the course of the same period.

Recently, Robert Redfield, MD, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offered insight into just how much masks can help contain the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 14, he said: "If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control." And if you are confused about what to use to cover up, check out You Should Not Be Wearing One of These Instead of a Face Mask, CDC Warns.

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