COVID-transmissions are often lower in states where most people wear masks

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Public health officials have been urging Americans that mask-wearing works to slow the spread of coronavirus – and now there is data to back up their claims. 

An Axios/Ipsos poll revealed in which states people are most – or least – likely to wear masks. 

It found that people in the Mid Atlantic region – led by New Yorkers – are the most diligent about wearing masks. 

Meanwhile, only about a third of the East South Central region, which includes Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, regularly wear masks. Mississippi’s case numbers remain relatively low, but with each case leading to another 1.26 cases on average, the state has the eighth highest transmission rate in  the nation. 

It comes as cases surge in Arizona, Texas and Florida, where many residents, especially young ones, have been increasingly going out to bars, restaurants and churches, often without masks, since their states reopened early. 

Many states in the Northeast, like New York, Maryland and Massachusetts where more than 60% of residents say they 'always' wear masks have lower rates of coronavirus transmission

Many states in the Northeast, like New York, Maryland and Massachusetts where more than 60% of residents say they ‘always’ wear masks have lower rates of coronavirus transmission 

Ipsos polled more than 6,000 Americans about their mask-wearing practices during two time periods: April 10-May 4 and May 8-June 22. 

All in all, about half of Americans surveyed in the latter time period have been wearing masks any time they leave home. 

In the Mid Atlantic region, 64 percent of respondents said they effectively don’t leave home without covering their faces these days. 

Ranking second, 60 percent of northeasterners said they always wear a mask out. 

On the West Coast’s Pacific region, about 58 percent of respondents said they always mask.

Mask-wearing rates start to drop off in the West South Central region – including those in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana – where only about 51 percent of residents always wear masks in public. Rates were similar in the South Atlantic region and East North Central (the area of Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin) where 50 and 45 percent of people always wear masks, respectively. 

Less than 40 percent of people living in the Mountain region (starting with Montana in the North and  ending with Arizona and New Mexico in the South) consistently wear masks. 

Only about a third of residents of the West North Central region (Minnesota and North Dakota down to Kansas and Missouri) and the East South Central area wear masks all the time, according to the survey. 

New Yorkers were most likely to wear masks - even amid protests - and the state's transmission rate has fallen below one per every coronavirus case (file)

New Yorkers were most likely to wear masks – even amid protests – and the state’s transmission rate has fallen below one per every coronavirus case (file) 

Broadly speaking, people who live in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky are collectively the most negligent about masks. 

Although the overall sample size of the survey was large, not enough people responded in most states to draw conclusions about mask-wearing in each. 

But 75 or more people did answer the survey in 28 states. 

More than 60 percent of people in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Connecticut reported always wearing masks. 

And in all but one of those states – California – the coronavirus transmission rate has fallen below zero. 

That means that each new infection leads to less than one additional case on average. 

Meanwhile, many states where few people wear masks on a constant basis had significantly higher transmission rates. 

Iowa, Utah and Tennessee fell to the bottom of the list, with fewer than 30 percent of residents ‘always’ wearing masks. Tennessee was dead last – only 25 percent of people there reported constant mask-wearing. 

All three states have transmission rates of greater than one, according to data from Rt.live. 

Mask-wearing does not perfectly correlate to low transmission rates. In California, where Governor Gavin Newsom Friday urged residents to wear masks, most already say they are - but the state's transmission rate remains about one

Mask-wearing does not perfectly correlate to low transmission rates. In California, where Governor Gavin Newsom Friday urged residents to wear masks, most already say they are – but the state’s transmission rate remains about one 

Arizona is currently in the throes of one of the worst epidemics in the nation, with more than 3,428 cases reported yesterday and hospitals on the verge of being overrun with coronavirus patients. 

Only 36 percent of its residents reported ‘always’ wearing masks last month, and the transmission rate is sitting at 1.22 right now. 

It’s impossible to know exactly what proportion of coronavirus prevention can be credited to mask wearing. Some studies have suggested masks can block up to 30 percent of viral particles. Others have conjectured that mask wearing may prevent the spread of coronavirus by as much as 85 percent. 

And the link between the percentage of residents wearing masks consistently and the transmission rate in the state was an imperfect one. Some states with low mask-wearing numbers still had transmission rates below zero. Others where mask wearing was prevalent still had transmission rates above one. 

But there was certainly a pattern, one that reflected public health guidance encouraging mask wearing alongside social distancing and good hand hygiene for each American to do their part to slow the spread and keep themselves and others safe.        

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