The Countries That Did This One Thing Had Hardly Any COVID-19 Deaths

The sooner a nation enacted this policy, the better things were for its citizens.

Every country around the world has been forced to deal with the ill-effects of COVID-19. And while it's become widely understood that washing your hands for 20 seconds frequently, maintaining at least six feet of distance from others, and wearing face coverings are the keys to staying safe and preventing the virus from spreading, countries that realized one of those elements sooner than others fared particularly well. A new study out of Virginia Commonwealth University reveals compelling evidence that those countries that quickly enacted widespread mask use had far lower death rates than those that didn't.

The study examined per-capita coronavirus-related mortality in 198 countries. According to the report, "In countries with cultural norms or government policies supporting public mask-wearing, per-capita coronavirus mortality increased on average by just 8 percent each week, as compared with 54 percent each week in remaining countries."

One of the study's authors, Christopher Leffler, MD, told Global News: "What we found was that of the big variables that you can control which influence mortality, one was wearing masks." He added: "It wasn't just by a few percent, it was up to a hundred times less mortality. The countries that introduced masks from the very beginning of their outbreak have had hardly any deaths."

Crowd of people wearing masks outside

While Leffler and his colleagues considered multiple variables—including age, sex ratio, obesity prevalence, temperature, urbanization, smoking, duration of infection, lockdowns, viral testing, and contact tracing policies—they concluded that public mask-wearing norms and policies led to far fewer COVID-19-related fatalities.

A study conducted by Cambridge University released earlier this month came to a similar conclusion. "The models suggest that—while the sooner the better—a policy of total face mask adoption can still prevent a second wave even if it isn't instigated until 120 days after an epidemic begins," the researchers said.

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The ubiquitous wearing of masks in public has been something of a political football in this hyper-partisan time in which we find ourselves. Some states are making public mask-wearing mandatory, while others are only recommending it, but not deeming it a requirement.

A Philadelphia Inquirer study found that states that recommend their residents wear masks but do not require it have seen new coronavirus cases rise by 84 percent over the last two weeks. By contrast, in the 11 states that mandate wearing masks in public, new cases have fallen by 25 percent over the last two weeks. And for more on the states that aren't faring well, check out These Are the States Where Coronavirus Numbers Are Up Over 75 Percent.

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