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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

Romney: Trump's lack of leadership on COVID-19 is "a great human tragedy"

Sen. Mitt Romney and President Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) told CNN Thursday that President Trump's lack of leadership during the coronavirus pandemic is "a great human tragedy."

Driving the news: Trump has largely stayed silent on the country's worsening pandemic in recent weeks, even as the U.S. experienced a record daily death toll and hospitalizations surpassed 100,000 for the first time. Instead, the president has focused much of his public commentary on pushing baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.