SALT LAKE CITY – Researchers at the University of Utah say mask mandates help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep businesses open.
The researchers looked at data from across the country to compare 37 statewide mandates and those in 136 counties in 29 states.
They concluded that, even controlling for other factors like social distancing, COVID-19 cases go down after mask mandates are put in place.
Their study also found statewide mandates do better than county-wide ones.
The new infection rate for areas with a statewide mandate is about 10 per 100,000 residents compared with 15 per 100,000 residents for county mandates.
This is even though, according to the study, “87% of residents covered by a county mandate reported compliance with a mask mandate, a figure substantially higher than the 67% under state mandates.”
The results of the survey were discussed during a news conference at the University of Utah on Monday.
It’s unclear exactly why statewide mandates have been more successful. However, many county-level mandates are in urban areas that have seen more COVID-19 cases on average.
When asked why Salt Lake County has continued to see high COVID-19 case counts despite having a mask mandate for months, presenters speculated that people coming into the area from places without mandates could have driven the spread.
But economist Dr. Nathan Seeger said there was another benefit to mask mandates: the economy.
When surveying Utahns, researchers found 51% said they were more likely to go to a store if everyone inside is wearing a mask.
“I think that just points to the importance of making sure it’s safe so we can go on with the economy,” Seeger said.
Cell phone and credit card data also show people went shopping more after mask mandates were implemented.
“The data’s very clear. When people feel more confident, they go out and they spend,” Seeger said. “It is important for [any] policies to increase consumer confidence.”
Taylor Randall, Dean of the Eccles School of Business, urged Utahns to mask up.
“To me, the findings are fairly compelling that if…we want to have better health and a better economy during this really critical time, we really should just wear masks,” Randall said.
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