Study links mask use to fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations

A new study from researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found evidence to reinforce what many medical experts have been saying since the onset of the pandemic: Wearing a face mask helps curb the spread of COVID-19.

The report analyzed hospitalizations various counties in Tennessee. Researchers said they categorized each Tennessee hospital based on the percentage of its typical patient population residing in counties with a mask mandate. 

Hospitalizations increased by 100% in hospitals where fewer than 25% of patients were subject to a local mask mandate. 

According to the report published on Oct. 27, researchers found that hospitals that served patients from areas without mandates requiring facial coverings continued to see the highest rate of growth in hospitalizations. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations remained at the same level since July 1 in hospitals where at least 75% of patients came from a county enforcing a mask rule. 

“As of this writing, just over half (54%) of Tennesseans are subject to a mask requirement in their county, while the remaining 46% either never faced a masking requirement (31%) or were only subject to a requirement during the summer months (July-September; 15%),” according to researchers. 

There were more than 3,200 coronavirus deaths and over 250,000 cases in Tennessee as of Oct. 29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While the researchers noted that wearing a mask is not the only defense against COVID-19, their data shows that it may be the best. That is, until a vaccine arrives.

“It is also clear that masking alone is not a silver bullet: since early October nearly every region of the state has seen growth in hospitalizations,” researchers said. “Again, however, this growth has been most dramatic in hospitals that draw a large percentage of patients from areas without mask requirements.” 

Despite the refusal by some to wear facial coverings, medical experts have continued to surface more and more evidence proving their effectiveness amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

A sign requiring to wear a mask is seen at Belmont University near the 2020 US Presidential elections debate hall on October 20,2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

RELATED: Parts of SC with mask mandates saw a 46% decline in coronavirus cases compared to areas without rules

A report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released on Aug. 12 said that parts of the state in which local mask mandates were in effect helped significantly slow the spread of COVID-19, compared to areas without those same ordinances.

According to a regularly updated map available on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s website, 12 counties in South Carolina currently implement local mask requirements to slow the spread of COVID-19.

According to the state’s health department, when health officials compared their analysis of areas that did not enact mask mandates compared to areas that did, the areas that enforced the use of a facial coverings to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus saw a 46.3% decrease in the total number of COVID-19 cases over the four weeks after the mandates were enacted.

South Carolina health officials said there were more than 166,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 3,600 deaths in the state as of Oct. 29. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.