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This 1 Thing Can Cut COVID Risk By Almost 50%, Study Says

The mandated wearing of face masks works, says study.

Researchers have determined that one thing can cut new coronavirus infectious almost in half: The mandated wearing of face masks.

Scientists at Simon Fraser University analyzed COVID-19 data from areas in Canada that enacted mask mandates. They found "up to a 46 percent average reduction" in new COVID cases reported in the first few weeks after the mandates went into effect.

The researchers found "clear evidence that wearing a mask can have a significant impact on the spread of COVID-19," they wrote. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Mask mandates work

Surveying data from 34 areas in Canada, the researchers found the mandates worked quickly, with a 25 to 31 percent average reduction in new COVID cases in the first few weeks. Expanding the parameters to several weeks, some areas saw new cases cut almost in half. 

"These results were supported by additional survey data that showed mask mandates increase self-reported mask usage in Canada by 30 percentage points, suggesting that the policy has a significant impact on behavior," the study said. 

Simply put, the scientists found that mask mandates worked: They were adhered to and achieved results. "These results suggest that mandating indoor mask wear in public places is a powerful policy measure to slow the spread of COVID-19, with little associated economic disruption in the short term," the researchers concluded.

The study's authors offered a caveat: They weren't able to say whether mask mandates are adhered to long term or if compliance dips over time, which can affect how far the pandemic ultimately spreads.

But, they said, "combined with other policy measures, mask mandates can be a potent policy tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19."

RELATED: I'm a Doctor and Here's When You Can Safely Keep Your Mask Off

Face masks have become widely accepted

Today, the New York Times reported that face masks have become widely accepted among the public: Polls show that the number of Americans who wear a face mask, at least when entering stores, rose from near zero in March to about 65 percent in early summer and near 90 percent this month.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Americans, with nearly 7.8 million people infected. Public health officials have expressed anxiety about what this fall and winter will bring, as cooler weather brings people indoors, where the virus is more easily transmitted. The seven-day moving average of cases has consistently topped 40,000, far higher than where those officials say it should be.

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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