IHME Analysis: Wearing a mask reduces transmission of COVID-19 by 50%

Updated: Jun. 17, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Wearing a mask reduces transmission of COVID-19 by as much as 50%, according to an analysis by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

“We have done what you call a meta-analysis. We have reviewed all the studies of protective effect of a mask and we have seen the range between 40-60%, depending on the location and the type of mask you wear,” explained Professor Ali Mokdad, Chief Strategy Officer, Population Health, University of Washington.

“In general, in the United States, it’s about 50% reduction of transmission of the virus. We need to repeat again, the mask doesn’t protect me from getting a virus, but protects other people from me if I have the virus. It’s very important for all us to wear the mask.”

IHME has been projecting COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization since mid-March. Its modeling has been cited by The White House and is still monitored by state leaders.

“These projections are very important for policy and for people behavior,” said Professor Mokdad. “If people know that COVID-19 is increasing in Alabama and they can do something about it, they’re more likely to go ahead and start wearing a mask.”

IHME’s most recent projection estimates 3,600 people will die from COVID-19 in Alabama by October, and based on the current rate of infections, projects hospitals will be overwhelmed in weeks.

“Alabama did a good job of reducing mobility, and now it is going up unfortunately. With mobility, you will see more infections and that’s what we are seeing right now in Alabama and unfortunately, it means more mortality.”

Professor Mokdad said deaths and infections can be prevented if people wear face coverings while in public.

“By wearing a mask, you reduce the circulation of the virus, you are helping the economy, you are helping hospitals. And in the case of Alabama, cases coming up, we expect that you will overwhelm your hospitals and your ICU beds capacity.”

He added, “It is a civic duty for you and I to wear our masks because we want to restart our economy, we don’t want to shut down our businesses and the only way we have right now as a preventive measure, until we have a vaccine and effective medication… for this virus, we really need to wear our mask.”

Professor Mokdad said IHME is releasing a new study on Thursday with projections of what would happen if everyone wore masks.

“You will see a very strong effect,” he said.

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