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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus hospitalizations are rising much more dramatically in places that don’t require people to wear a face mask, according to a new Vanderbilt University analysis.

The big picture: The findings reinforce what experts have been saying for months: Masks — and mask mandates — work. They will not vanquish the coronavirus on their own, but they help. A lot.

Coronavirus hospitalizations are up across the board, both nationwide and in Tennessee. But they’re rising far more modestly in places that require masks.

By the numbers: The Vanderbilt analysis compares Tennessee hospitals based on how many of their patients come from counties with mask requirements.

  • In hospitals where at least 75% of patients are subject to a local mask requirement, COVID hospitalizations are at about the same level now as they were July 1.
  • In hospitals where fewer than 25% of patients are subject to a local mask mandate, however, hospitalizations are more than 200% higher than their July 1 levels.

Where it stands: Roughly 43,000 people are in the hospital right now for coronavirus infections, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

  • Many states are seeing more hospitalizations now than they have at any other point in the pandemic, and some localized areas are beginning to worry about running out of beds.

The bottom line: Masks are not a silver bullet; nothing is. As the Vanderbilt analysis notes, places with mask mandates may also see better adherence to other safety measures, including social distancing.

  • This is one more piece of evidence that those interventions work. They reduce the risk of transmitting the virus at all, and may reduce the risk of serious illness when some transmission does occur.

Go deeper: The pandemic is getting worse again

Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

20 hours ago - Health

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tests positive for COVID-19

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Wednesday, per CBS News.

The state of play: The governor has minor symptoms and will continue working remotely, according to his office.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.