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Those Who Didn’t Wear Masks Were 2 Times More Likely to Get COVID, Data Shows

New data reiterates what early findings from studies last year told us: Mask-wearing prevents the spread of COVID-19.

A kid wearing a protective mask and gloves rides his bike with his family close behind on a relatively empty sidewalk amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in New York City.

From March of last year through May 2021, those who didn’t ever wear masks to stop the spread of coronavirus were two times more likely to get infected with the virus than those who wore their masks whenever they ventured outside their home, data from a new study suggests.

The Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index polled people about their mask-wearing and other habits associated with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year along with questions about how they tested for the infection. Of those respondents who said they always wore their masks in public, only 11 percent said they ended up testing positive for the virus, compared to nearly a quarter (23 percent) of respondents who said they never wore masks and eventually contracted coronavirus.

The gap may be even wider than that because according to Axios, those who didn’t wear masks were also less likely to get tested for the virus. “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 news site noted.

There was an even more pronounced difference between those who practiced social distancing standards — staying six feet apart from people with whom they did not share living quarters — and those who rejected them. Among the former, only 10 percent of those who adhered to distancing rules all of the time ended up contracting coronavirus, whereas 26 percent of those who ignored social distancing ended up testing positive for COVID-19.

The findings from the survey demonstrate that while masks and social distancing were not 100 percent effective against the virus, they were definitely effective at slowing down or preventing the spread of COVID-19.

While these new numbers appear to confirm guidance put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding preventing the spread of coronavirus, the efficacy of mask-wearing was noticeable early on in the pandemic. One study, for instance, just a few months after social distancing rules had begun, found that the 15 states and Washington, D.C., which issued mask mandates right away saw a significant slowdown in their rates of COVID-19, preventing hundreds of thousands of individuals from contracting the virus.

There is a strong possibility that the politicization of mask-wearing led to a much higher death count in the United States than was necessary. Republicans, particularly former President Donald Trump, viewed wearing a mask as an affront to his presidency. His supporters followed his lead, with many refusing to wear masks while out in public during the pandemic.

Consequently, some have estimated that tens of thousands of COVID deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented with universal mask-wearing.

As of June 7, more than 597,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, with over 33 million having tested positive for it since the pandemic began.

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