There is hardly a more divisive issue in the country than mask mandates. Interestingly, the nation is split in half on the issue: half the states currently have mask mandates; the other half doesn’t.
This article isn’t going to argue whether or not mask mandates work. It is a statistical overview that is going to do something that experts and most of the mainstream media refuse to do: Assume you can look at the data and come to your own conclusions.
It is important to note that this study is not about mask compliance. It is about mask mandates. The following chart of mask compliance in the United States in 2020 comes via the New York Times. It bears out that mask mandates and compliance are two different concepts.
There are fifty states in this study, which discounts Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Below the brief analysis will be charts from the New York Times, which are based on public data. The New York Times is being deliberately chosen to facilitate open-mindedness for those who may be averse to coming to particular conclusions.
For context, COVID cases and death rates are trending downward in the United States as a whole. Cases have gone down 27% in the last 14 days, while hospitalizations are down 7% and deaths are down 8%.
Twenty of the U.S. states that currently have mask mandates have Democratic governors, only five have Republican governors. The red states that presently have mask mandates are: Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland. Vermont, and West Virginia. Only three of the 25 states without mask mandates have Democratic governors: Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin.
The top three states for case rate increases in the past 14 days all have mask mandates and are run by Democratic governors: Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. Of the states that have mask mandates, 6 had case rates increase (CO: 11%; HI: 5%; NV: 18%; NM: 1%; OR: 24%; WA: 3%); of the states without mask mandates, 3 had case rates increase (AL: 2%; MO: 5%; ND: 1%).
Thirty states have had double-digit decreases in case rates in the last 14 days. Seventeen of these states have mask mandates; thirteen have no mask mandates. Half of these states have Republican governors; half of the states have Democratic governors.
There is the question of how much vaccination rates may be affecting case rates decline. Although it is practically a given that vaccines will decrease rates, it is too premature to examine any potential correlation. However, the preliminary data look promising.
Most of the top twenty states for full vaccinations saw significant 14-day case rate declines: The average decrease for these states was 27%. Only two of the top twenty states for full vaccinations saw increases in 14-day case rates: New Mexico (1%) and Hawaii (5%). There are fourteen states with full vaccination rates under 30%: Two of these states saw case rate increases (AL: 2%; MO: 5%). The average rate trend for these states is minus 4%.
There is no clear correlation between case rates and COVID-related daily death rates. Indeed, the divergence in some cases is striking: Wisconsin’s case rate is down 14% over 14 days, while it’s COVID-related death rate is up 134%. Connecticut’s case rate is down 40%, while its death rate is down only 2%. Maine’s case rate is down 38%, while its death rate is up 13%. New Mexico’s case rate is up 1%, and its death rate is up 72%. And so forth.
There are 18 states with double-digit decreases in COVID-related death rates over the past 14 days: Ten of these states have no mask mandates; 10 have Republican governors. The worst 20 states for COVID-related death rate increases over the last 14 days: Eleven have Democratic governors and nine have Republican governors.
The following charts will drive that point home, beginning with states that have mask mandates.
Mask Mandate States
14. NEW JERSEY
15. NEW MEXICO
16. NEW YORK
17. NORTH CAROLINA
21. RHODE ISLAND
25. WEST VIRGINIA
NO MASK MANDATE STATES
16. NEW HAMPSHIRE
17. NORTH DAKOTA
19. SOUTH CAROLINA
20. SOUTH DAKOTA
Thus, mask mandates do not appear have any statistically significant effect on COVID-related case rates or death rates. Whether or not masks themselves have any marginal effect is a separate matter. A recent CDC study showed they have 0.9%-1.9% effect on case rates if used for 100 days. Whether or not communities believe that difference is worth the long-term effects of mask usage on people’s mental health and childhood development should be a serious matter of public policy debate.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.