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GP Guy, FC Lee, G Sunshine, R McCord, M Howard-Williams, L Kompaniyets, C Dunphy, M Gakh, R Weber, E Sauber-Schatz, JD Omura and GM Massetti
Abstract
CDC recommends a combination of evidence-based strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (1). Because the virus is transmitted predominantly by inhaling respiratory droplets from infected persons, universal mask use can help reduce transmission (1). Starting in April, 39 states and the District of Columbia (DC) issued mask mandates in 2020. Reducing person-to-person interactions by avoiding nonessential shared spaces, such as restaurants, where interactions are typically unmasked and physical distancing (≥6 ft) is difficult to maintain, can also decrease transmission (2). In March and April 2020, 49 states and DC prohibited any on-premises dining at restaurants, but by mid-June, all states and DC had lifted these restrictions. To examine the association of state-issued mask mandates and allowing on-premises restaurant dining with COVID-19 cases and deaths during March 1-December 31, 2020, county-level data on mask mandates and restaurant reopenings were compared with county-level changes in COVID-19 case and death growth rates relative to the mandate implementation and reopening dates. Mask mandates were associated with decreases in daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, and 81-100 days after implementation. Allowing any on-premises dining at restaurants was associated with increases in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41-60, 61-80, and 81-100 days after reopening, and increases in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 61-80 and 81-100 days after reopening. Implementing mask mandates was associated with reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whereas reopening restaurants for on-premises dining was associated with increased transmission. Policies that require universal mask use and restrict any on-premises restaurant dining are important components of a comprehensive strategy to reduce exposure to and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (1). Such efforts are increasingly important given the emergence of highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States (3,4).
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