Mask mandate could have saved 55,000 lives — but some are still resisting


Only 33 states and Washington, D.C., have mask mandates.

A national mask mandate might have saved up to 55,000 lives if it had been instituted in early April, according to analysis published in the journal Medrxiv.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, predicted a 17% to 55% reduction in coronavirus deaths between April and May if all employees who interacted with the public had been required to wear a face mask starting on April 1. Nearly 100,000 people died during that period, meaning between 17,000 and 55,000 deaths could have been prevented.

Masks are "a very effective policy" that result in "a considerable reduction in fatalities," study co-author Victor Chernozhukov said in a press release, according to Newsweek.

A separate analysis from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in early July predicted that up to 28,000 deaths could be prevented before Oct. 1 if nearly everyone wore face masks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, endorsed the idea of universal mask-wearing during an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday.

"For me, as a public health official, obviously I would like the consideration that everybody wears a mask," Fauci said. He noted that states have a lot of power when it comes to mandates, and added that there is "no doubt you should be wearing a mask."

Only 33 states plus Washington, D.C., had mask mandates in place as of Wednesday, according to a tally from AARP. The group explained that some of the mandates have exceptions, including for young children or those with disabilities, but broadly require masks in indoor locations and where social distancing is not possible.

Every state led by a Democratic governor has a face mask mandate, the Democratic Governors Association pointed out in a July 31 press release.

"Democratic governors are following facts and science, while Republican governors continue to ignore public health officials," David Turner, the group's communications director, stated. "Republican governors need to stop messing around — widespread mask use can curb the spread of the coronavirus and save lives."

While about a third of Republican governors have issued mask mandates, some have actively resisted such a measure.

In Florida, one of the nation's biggest coronavirus hotspots, Gov. Ron DeSantis has consistently resisted calls by public officials to institute a mandate.

On June 24, more than a dozen U.S. House members from Florida wrote DeSantis a letter urging him to "implement an immediate statewide mask order requiring that all individuals wear a mask while in public in order to fight the spread of COVID-19."

On July 3, 10 members of the Florida House also sent a letter to DeSantis asking for an immediate statewide mandate. Yet DeSantis has thus far refused to issue such an order.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta, calling the mayor's mask mandate "void and unenforceable" because it went beyond Kemp's statewide order that only encouraged the use of masks.

At the federal level, Donald Trump has been inconsistent on the issue of masks, oftentimes sending mixed messages to the public.

On April 3, he told reporters that he was not going to be wearing a mask, despite federal guidance at the time encouraging people to wear them.

Trump did not wear a mask at a May 5 tour of an Arizona Honeywell facility that produced face masks. Later that month, Trump retweeted Fox News contributor Brit Hume mocking Joe Biden for wearing a mask in public.

On July 19, he told Fox News that he opposed a national mask mandate, saying he did not "agree with the statement that if everybody wore a mask everything disappears."

But two days later, Trump encouraged everyone to wear a mask during a White House press conference.

"Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact," Trump said. "They'll have an effect. And we need everything we can get."

Four days later, Trump was photographed playing golf with retired football star Brett Favre. Neither was wearing a mask.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.