Kansas issued a face mask order. Counties that opted out saw COVID-19 cases rise 100% in 6 weeks, CDC says

We already know that wearing face masks in public spaces slows the spread of COVID-19.

And now the coronavirus situation in Kansas is providing further proof.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a face mask mandate in early July, and the counties that upheld the order saw a decline in cases, while the counties that opted out saw cases rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday.

“Countywide mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission in mandated counties,” according to the report, which analyzed county-level data one month before, and after, the governor’s mandate went into effect.

As of mid-August, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties had abided by the state mandate or adopted their own mask mandate, and 81 counties had opted out, as Kansas law allows. At that time, the number of new daily cases per capita – calculated as a 7-day rolling average – had decreased an average of 6% among counties with a mask mandate and increased by 100% in counties without a mandate.

“Although rates were considerably higher in mandated counties than in nonmandated counties by the executive order, rates in mandated counties declined markedly after July 3, compared with those in nonmandated counties,” the CDC said.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly walks toward a press conference on COVID-19.

At the time of the governor’s executive order, the only other state mandates issued were focused on mitigation strategies for schools. It’s important to note that six mandated and 13 nonmandated counties were metropolitan areas, and 13 mandated counties and seven nonmandated counties had implemented at least one other public health mitigation strategy, such as limits of restaurants occupancy.

But those additional mitigation factors didn’t confound the CDC’s finding: The wearing of face masks alone reduced cases.

“Similar decreases in cases were observed among mandated counties with and without other mitigation strategies,” the report said.

The CDC has made similar findings in 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to the report.

Kansas is among 37 states that mandate the wearing of face masks in public to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to a list maintained by AARP. Other states have recommended wearing face masks but have not implemented statewide orders.

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