States That Don't Do This One Thing Saw COVID-19 Numbers Jump 84 Percent

State mandates are working wonders to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

While much of the country has seen a dangerous swell of new coronavirus infections over the past several weeks, many states have watched those numbers steadily decline. Though some attribute the disparity between the two to broader reopening strategies or a natural ebb and flow of the virus, it seems the reason for this stark divide could come down to one crucial difference: whether or not those states require citizens to wear face masks in public.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 states that recommend, but don't require, residents to don face masks in public have seen a shocking 84 percent rise in new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks. In contrast, 11 states that do require residents to wear masks in public have seen their new case counts fall by 25 percent over that same period of time.

However, despite the staggering differences in case numbers, many feel that mask mandates are unfair, unenforceable, or even unconstitutional. CNN recently reported on a commissioner's meeting in Palm Beach, Florida in which residents expressed outrage toward a new, countywide mask mandate, which was put in place to curb the state's skyrocketing rate of infection. Overwhelmingly, these residents expressed a lack of trust in governing authorities and questioned the efficacy of the masks themselves.

Sam Fahmy, MD, chief medical officer at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, told the CNN correspondent that the statements shared in the commissioner's meeting were "disheartening." He went on to explain that mask-wearing is a "common-sense" precaution that will continue to be necessary until a vaccine is widely available, and that wearing one in public protects both the wearer and others in the community that might be more vulnerable to the disease. "We know, scientifically, that masks are proven to prevent infection," Fahmy stated, adding that wearing masks around others is a necessary "act of kindness" that could save the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised.

So, whether or not your state requires masks in public, you'd be wise to wear one when you leave the house. There is little doubt that they are among our best tools for containing the spread of coronavirus, and given that our nation's numbers are spiking to record highs, we're going to need to use every tool we have. And find out how masks help stop the spread in asymptomatic cases: This Many Americans My Have Had Coronavirus and Didn't Know It, Says CDC.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more