Study says universal mask-wearing could save 100,000 lives in the U.S. by March 1

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A recent study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) says at least 100,000 lives could be saved by the end of February if 95% of Americans wore face coverings in public or universal mask wearing.

The study was published by Nature on Oct. 23.

“The potential life-saving benefit of increasing mask use in the coming fall and winter cannot be overstated,” the study said. “It is likely that U.S. residents will need to choose between higher levels of mask use or risk the frequent redeployment of more stringent and economically damaging SDMs; or, in the absence of either measure, face a reality of a rising death toll.”

Some of those 100,000 saved lives would be in South Dakota, according to the university’s IHME.

The state is projected to have 934 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 1. Universal mask-wearing would reduce that by more than 200 people to 710 deaths, according to a University of Washington IHME COVID-19 model for South Dakota.

Earlier models by IHME said 95% mask use could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by 30% in the U.S.

The South Dakota Department of Health chart including deaths, age range of deaths and sex of those who died from COVID-19 in South Dakota. The chart is from Oct. 27.

Studies, models and reports about the positive effectiveness of the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been done by Stanford University scientists, the University of California Davis, Health Affairs, Science News, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The New England Journal of Medicine and others.

“The necessity of wearing masks by the public during COVID-19 pandemic has been under-emphasized,” researchers said in a publication called “Mask use during COVID-19: A risk-adjusted strategy,” published on June 20 by Elsevier Public Health Emergency Coalition and shared by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

A group of organizations including the South Dakota Medical Association, Sanford, Avera, Monument Health, the Greater Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, the School Administrators of South Dakota and about 30 others called for more mask-wearing by the public in an Oct. 27 news conference. The campaign is called Mask Up South Dakota.

Mask wearing is a key part of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr. Ben Aaker the president of the South Dakota Medical Association. Wearing masks correctly and consistently, along with social distancing, good hygiene and other safety precautions protect those you love, yourself, co-workers, teachers, nurses and the general public, Aaker said.

The recent study by the University of Washington’s IHME focused on the nation but the IHME also has state models for the pandemic.

The recent study used modeling scenarios based on current mitigation strategies in place in the U.S. and if social distancing also increased. The study projected that if current mitigation strategies remained in place and social distancing increased from Sept. 21 through Feb. 28, about 511,000 people would die from COVID-19 in the U.S. The death range would be 469,578 to 578,347 and 511,373 cumulative.

A 95% mask rate, or universal mask wearing, would reduce that by roughly 100,000 people, according to the study.

Even at an 85% face covering rate, as many as 95,000 lives could be saved.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

Models and studies developed by the University of Washington’s IHME have been cited by various health experts and public officials since the pandemic started.

The university’s IHME model for South Dakota has been nearly on the mark for COVID-19 projections in deaths.

The model projected 375.36 COVID-19 deaths as of Oct. 28. and 393.69 by the end of the month.

The state had 375 deaths as of Oct. 27.

The model projects 785.71 deaths by Dec. 31. The death projection would decline under universal mask-wearing to 623.72 by Dec. 31.

The model projects 697 new COVID-19 cases on Oct. 27. The state had 989 total cases on Oct. 27 which included 984 RT-PCR tests and five antigen tests.

The state had 395 hospitalized on Oct. 27. The model projected 329 of all beds would be needed and of those, 99 intensive care beds.

If the daily rate of COVID-19 decreases so will hospitalizations.

Aaker said in the news conference to promote mask wearing that while hospitals in the state now have the capacity to care for COVID-19, “there is an upper limit we hope we don’t reach.”

Support for universal mask wearing could be an uphill climb. The national average for self-reported mask wearing was 49% as Sept. 21.

But, several polls and studies indicate a willingness to increase use.

The Pew Research Center said on Aug. 27 that 85% of the surveyed Americans said they had worn a face covering in a store all or most of the time over the past month. The survey was conducted from Aug. 3 to Aug. 16.

The survey also noted a narrow gap between Republicans and Democrats who said they had worn a face covering all or most of the time in stores or businesses. Ninety-two percent of those who said they leaned Democrat wore masks while 76% of those who said they leaned Republican wore masks. The gap was 23 points in June. The survey was also done after President Donald Trump wore a mask in public in July for the first time and encouraged the public to do the same.

A recent National Geographic poll said an increased amount of Americans favored mask wearing. The poll was taken after Trump was hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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