A new study suggests that a mandatory mask policy can play a significant role in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
The study was published by British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University (SFU). Researchers from the Department of Economics say they’ve found “clear evidence that wearing a mask can have a significant impact on the spread” of the virus.
“Mask mandates are associated with a 25% or larger weekly reduction in COVID-19 cases,” reads a release from the university.
Information was gathered by analyzing the 34 different Public Health Units (PHUs) in Ontario. Specifically, researchers compared the case numbers and results of PHUs that adopted mask polices earlier or later. Data for the analysis was gathered over the course of two months.
“In the first few weeks after their introduction, mask mandates were associated with an average weekly reduction of 25% to 31% in newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases, relative to the trend in mask mandate absence in July and August,” says SFU.
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When comparing data from across Canada, researchers also found that there was a negative association between mask mandates and case growth in the virus.
“Jointly, these results suggest that mandating indoor mask wear in public places is a powerful policy measure to slow the spread of COVID-19, with little associated economic disruption in the short term,” says the study.
Results from the study suggest that if a nationwide indoor mask policy had been implemented in early July, the number of new weekly cases in August could have been reduced by 25% to 40% — anywhere from 700 to 1,100 fewer cases per week.
The findings of the study, however, are still in preprint and have yet to be peer reviewed.
Authors of the study also point out that the data doesn’t allow them to say “whether the effect of mask mandates persists or weakens beyond” the first few weeks that they’re in effect.