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Rand Paul Says Mask Mandates Don’t Reduce COVID-19 Cases — The Data Disagrees

As COVID-19 first hit America, debates raged — highly partisan debates — about the effectiveness of social distancing, mask-wearing, and shutdowns. Initially, private citizens were asked not to purchase disposable masks for protection, in part to protect medical professionals from shortages, but as more data emerged, masking was encouraged and even mandated. Now, with over a year of data on the record, there is still a debate — and it’s still partisan.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 11: Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul questions Dr. Anthony Fauci (not pictured), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)

In the clip below, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) appears on Fox News to declare that mask mandates don’t work, and that cases actually increased with them. He doesn’t say where his data comes from, but it’s clearly not the CDC, whose data shows the opposite.

“I think if you look objectively at mask mandates, whether it’s in states, cities, counties, or countries, there’s no correlation between a mask mandate and reduction in incidence of the disease. In fact, it’s the opposite, the more mandates we got, the more of the disease we got.”

While cases certainly did continue to rise, the CDC’s data shows that masking, among other precautions, slowed that rise.

“During March 1–December 31, 2020, state-issued mask mandates applied in 2,313 (73.6%) of the 3,142 U.S. counties. Mask mandates were associated with a 0.5 percentage point decrease (p = 0.02) in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.1, 1.5, 1.7, and 1.8 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively, after implementation (p<0.01 for all) (Table 1) (Figure). Mask mandates were associated with a 0.7 percentage point decrease (p = 0.03) in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.0, 1.4, 1.6, and 1.9 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively, after implementation (p<0.01 for all)."

Essentially, masks were shown to slow the increase in cases — something that has always been a goal in this pandemic, in order to save lives and prevent overcrowding hospitals.

However, the more important statistic may be in death rates — as the last quoted line above explains, death growth rates decreased by a full percentage point within 20 days of implementation, and further over time.



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