Nov 18, 2021 - Health

Mask-wearing reduces COVID incidence by 53%, study shows

Photo of two people walking in a hallway as a sign that says "Use of face covering required" is taped to a wall
A face covering required sign posted in the basement of the House side of the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Mask-wearing is the single most effective public health measure against the coronavirus, cutting incidence by 53%, according to a new global study published in the British Medical Journal.

Why it matters: The findings come as parts of the world, including D.C., increasingly loosen masking requirements, citing vaccine efficacy. Experts have warned against lifting mask mandates too soon.

What they're saying: "This systematic review and meta analysis [of non-pharmaceutical interventions] suggests that several personal protective and social measures, including handwashing, mask wearing, and physical distancing are associated with reductions in the incidence of covid-19," the researchers wrote.

  • While vaccines have proven safe and effective at saving lives, they do not offer 100% protection, especially in light of new variants, the study notes.
  • "Public health efforts to implement public health measures should consider community health and sociocultural needs, and future research is needed to better understand the effectiveness of public health measures in the context of covid-19 vaccination."

The big picture: 254,910,151 people have contracted COVID globally, per data from Johns Hopkins University. 5,122,686 have died from the disease.

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