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People wear face masks outside Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Nearly 130,000 fewer people will die of COVID-19 this winter if 95% of Americans wear face masks in public, according to research published Friday.

Why it matters: “Increasing mask use is one of the best strategies that we have right now to delay the imposition of social distancing mandates," Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington told the N.Y. Times.

  • “We strongly believe we are heading into a pretty grim winter season."
  • The new study estimates hospitalizations and deaths will rise until January, then continue at that level until the spring.
  • It "also offered a rough estimate of the pandemic’s toll in the United States: perhaps 500,000 deaths by March 2021, even with social distancing mandates reinstated in most states," the Times notes.

The big picture: States with higher percentages of people who wear masks in public tend to have a lower percentage of people who know someone with COVID symptoms, WashPost reports. (See a graphic.)

  • Between the lines: “[I]f people say they’re not wearing masks, they may not be taking other protective measures either. So perhaps what we see is a combination of mask usage, other social distancing behaviors and perhaps other factors we haven’t measured," Carnegie Mellon professor Alex Reinhart told the Post.

The bottom line: Wear a mask, help save a life.

Go deeper: Biden unveils $2 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan

Go deeper

14 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.

20 hours ago - Health

"Every Mother Counts" founder: Midwives need more resources during the pandemic

Axios' Niala Boodho and Christy Turlington Burns.

Midwives and doulas need more support from states to ensure safer births for women , as hospitals increasingly become overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic, "Every Mother Counts" founder Christy Turlington Burns said on Tuesday at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: More mothers die in the U.S. from complications during pregnancy than in any other developed country, according to a recent Commonwealth Fund analysis, as well as past reporting by NPR and ProPublica.