Image via Shutterstock Face masks help prevent the spread of coronavirus
Image via Shutterstock

Meanwhile, 11 states that do mandate face coverings while in public reported new coronavirus cases fell by 25% over that same time period.

Health officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States. That’s roughly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed thus far.

This week, more than two dozen states reported the number of cases and hospitalizations is spiking. Many of them, according to new analysis by The Philadelphia Inquirer, are states with lax mask guidelines. Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas, for example, all have Republican governors who have resisted issuing mask-wearing requirements.

Numbers were examined beginning at the start of June and running through the 21st, and looked at all 50 states. At the time the data was collected, 16 states recommended, but did not require, wearing face masks when in public. In those states, new coronavirus cases rose by 84% over the last two weeks.

In the 11 states mandating face coverings while in public new coronavirus cases fell by 25% over that same time period.

States requiring masks be worn only by employees and patrons of certain businesses have seen a 12% drop in cases. 

States that have required masks only for employees of certain businesses, but not patrons, saw an average increase in new cases of 70% over the past two weeks.

The findings reflect those discovered by earlier studies, including one published in the journal Health Affairs, which estimated between 230,000 to 450,000 cases were prevented in the states that enacted face mask requirements between April 8 and May 15.

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Another, conducted by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6-May 9, and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17-May 9.

“Face masking is one of the more effective prevention measures because we contain viral particles that may be produced through simple activities like talking or breathing,” Jade Flinn, nurse educator for the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, told the Inquirer. 

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“The whole point of the mask is to ensure that you are not only protected from others, but asymptomatic carriers—someone who is well and may not know they have been exposed to the virus—contain viral particles that they may be producing when interacting with others,” she added.

Flinn also stressed the importance of social distancing and proper and frequent hand washing in preventing the spread of coronavirus. 

Since the data was collected, more states have begun implementing mask requirements when in public, including North Carolina, Nevada, and Washington

The issue has been contentious and has often split along the political ideological divide, likely spurred on in part by the fact that President Donald Trump has so far refused to wear a mask; this, despite the fact that he has been close with those who have tested positive, including a chauffeur and staffers who attended the Tulsa rally.  

Trump recently said he told “his people” to slow down testing to hide the rising number of cases in the United States.

That rhetoric will soon be paired with action, as the Trump administration is ending federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites in five states next week: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, and Colorado. Meanwhile, new cases across the country continue to rise.