Jun 7, 2021 - Health

Exclusive: People who wore masks were less likely to get sick

Data: Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index polling data since March 2020; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Turns out that wearing a mask and social distancing really weren't a waste of time.

Driving the news: Exclusive polling data from our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, which started in March 2020, shows that the respondents who reported never wearing masks were twice as likely to test positive for COVID as those who said they wore masks all the time.

By the numbers: Just 11% of people who reported always wearing masks outside the home tested positive for COVID — compared to 23% of those who said they never wore masks.

  • That's even though people who wore masks all the time got tested more regularly than those who didn't.
  • 30% of people who wore masks at all times reported getting tested for COVID, compared to 23% who wore masks sometimes, 20% of those who wore them occasionally but not often and 12% of those who never wore them.

Between the lines: When a group of people is getting tested less often than others, but has a higher positive rate, there's a good chance that there are other sick people who are being missed.

The pattern was similar for social distancing. Just 10% of people who said they kept a six-foot distance from other people at all times tested positive for COVID, compared to 26% of people who said they never did.

  • 12% of people who said they sometimes kept a six-foot distance tested positive, as did 20% of those who said they social distanced occasionally but not often.
  • There was less variation in testing rates in this group: 26% of people who always social distanced got tested for COVID, compared to 27% of people who did so sometimes, 28% of those who did so occasionally but not often, and 23% of those who never did.
Go deeper