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Masks Work

French President Emmanuel Macron wears a patriotic face mask to speak with schoolchildren (AP photo/Ian Langsdon)

America’s patchwork response to COVID, with the federal government having long since checked out, needless to say has had awful consequences. But it has provided a natural experiment to make clear that masks are effective:

But the different state-level approaches mean researchers can now parse the results of a trial they never would have received approval to conduct. New research from Kansas and Tennessee suggests that not only do mask mandates prevent Covid-19 spread, they may also blunt the severity of illness and reduce the number of serious cases that require hospitalization. Other findings support the argument more and more public health experts are making: that masks remain among our cheapest most effective tools to control the pandemic — if worn consistently.

“If you’re not in the ICU, the only tools at our disposal that we know work are the tried-and-true public health measures, like social distancing, hand-washing, and masks,” says Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and affiliate assistant professor for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “We’re bearing the brunt of those things being implemented poorly.”

“You’re less likely to get Covid-19 if you’re wearing a mask,” says Donna Ginther, an economist and director of the Institute for Policy and Social Research at the University of Kansas. And “even if you do get sick while wearing a mask, you’re less likely to get deathly ill.”

Biden will be better on this, but without Republican buy-in the effect will only be marginal. And the fact that a vaccine is imminent makes the denialism and preemptive giving up all the more infuriating.

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