Wearing masks could save over 100,000 lives through February: study

There are more than 8.4 million confirmed COVID cases in the U.S and more than 223,000 deaths

More than 100,000 COVID-related deaths could be prevented in the next few months if 95% of Americans wear masks in public, according to a new study. 

Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation analyzed data on Covid-19 cases, testing, mask use, and deaths from February 1 through September 21, which helped inform model projections for the course of the contagion through March 2021, CNN reports.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine on Friday, nearly 130,000 lives could be spared if mask compliance was at 95 percent, for each state with or without social distancing. The analysis also estimates that more than 95,000 COVID deaths could be prevented if 85 percent of the U.S. population wore face coverings in public. 

Read More: FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: the antiviral remdesivir

Health officials continue to stress the importance of mask use in slowing the spread of the virus, most especially as the U.S enters into flu season. The nation is also experiencing a new wave of infections. 

“The potential life-saving benefit of increasing mask use in the coming fall and winter cannot be overstated. It is likely that US residents will need to choose between higher levels of mask use or risk the frequent redeployment of more stringent and economically damaging [social distancing mandates]; or, in the absence of either measure, face a reality of a rising death toll,” the analysis states. 

“We think the key point here is that there’s a huge winter surge coming and our models have been showing that for many months,” said IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray.

Read More: Woman in her 30s died from COVID-19 on airplane

“You can see in the paper what universal masks can do and they blunt quite a bit of the surge or delay it,” Dr. Murray continued. “I think it’s very difficult at the point where we are in the US — where there’s so much community transmission of the virus — to prevent some fall winter surge, but we can certainly make it much smaller.”

“The fall/winter surge will intensify in November and December, reaching a peak in January. Many states will face enormous pressure on hospital capacity and will likely have to re-impose some social distancing mandates,“ IHME said in its weekly update. ‘The best strategy to delay re-imposition of mandates and the associated economic hardship is to expand mask use.”

There are more than 8.4 million confirmed COVID cases in the U.S and more than 223,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!