A team of researchers in Texas and California compared Covid-19 infection rate trends in Italy and New York both before and after face masks were made mandatory. Both locations started to see infection rates flatten only after mandatory face mask measures were put in place, according to the study published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers calculated that wearing face masks prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9.
"Wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the development of a vaccine" they wrote.
The study noted that in contrast with China, wearing of face masks was unpopular in most of the Western world during the early outbreak of the pandemic. But the researchers said the evidence shows masks work to slow spread.
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