If 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved from Covid-19 through February, suggests a new modeling study.
The study – by the Covid-19 prediction team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation – notes that in September, only about 49% of US residents reported wearing a mask ‘always’ in public.
If mask wear is 49% through February and states continue to remove social distancing warrants, the death toll from Covid-19 across the United States could reach around 1 million by now on February 28, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine on Friday.
Yet, assuming states close when their daily death rate exceeds 8 deaths per 1 million people in the population but mask wear does not change, the study’s model projections predict that the death toll could reach 511,373 deaths by February 28.
The scenario that 95% of the people in each state wear masks – in addition to states reinstating social distancing warrants if their daily death rates exceed 8 deaths per 1 million people – resulted in the projected death toll on lower, with 381,798 deaths as of Feb.28, according to the study.
For the study, researchers analyzed data on Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States from February 1 to September 21. This analysis – along with other factors, such as the seasonality of pneumonia, screening rates and use of masks – helped inform the model projections for how the pandemic will progress through February 28.
The study had some limitations, including the fact that the results are only forecast projections from models and not definitive on what the future holds – and mask wear tends to fluctuate, so the figure of 49% used in the study now seems obsolete.
IHME director Dr Chris Murray also pointed out during a virtual press briefing on Friday that the institute’s weekly modeling projections provide more up-to-date data than provided in the study. However, the study still provides insight into how wearing a mask can make a difference.
“We think the key point here is that there is a huge winter wave coming and our models have been showing that for many months,” Murray said on Friday.
“You can see in the document what the universal masks can do and they blunt the push a bit or delay it,” he said. “I think it’s very difficult when we’re in the United States – where there’s so much community transmission of the virus – to prevent a fall-winter wave, but we can certainly reduce it a lot more.” .
Murray said “the long-term vision” provided in the study “is very important in helping policy makers – governors, federal government, other actors – to think about what we need to do.”
On Thursday evening, in separate projections, the IHME model of the coronavirus pandemic predicted 385,611 coronavirus deaths in the United States by February 1 – slightly less than last week’s forecast for the same period. But the institute says the number of cases and deaths are on the rise in the United States.
“Over the past week, the increase in daily cases has become much clearer, and for the first time since early August, daily deaths have started to increase. We believe the fall / winter wave has started, albeit several weeks after the massive surge in Europe, ”IHME said in its weekly update.
“The fall / winter push will intensify in November and December, peaking in January. Many states will face enormous pressures on hospital capacity and will likely have to reimpose some social distancing mandates. The best strategy for delaying delay. the reimposition of mandates and the resulting economic hardship is to expand the use of masks. “