U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Could Be Cut 67 Percent With 'Universal Mask Usage,' Study Finds

With novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. approaching nearly 3.9 million, several local authorities have issued orders requiring face coverings in public in a bid to reduce the spread of infection.

While many people have been opposed to mask mandates, the widespread use of masks could potentially help significantly reduce the country's daily case count and daily death toll, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The U.S. daily death toll is currently projected to be around 815 by November 1, according to projections from the IHME. This daily death toll projected for November 1 could be reduced by over 66.4 percent if "universal masks" were applied across the country, the institute noted.

Universal mask usage refers to a 95 percent usage of masks in public in every location, with "mandates re-imposed for six weeks if daily deaths reach eight per million (0.8 per 100,000)," the institute explained.

Universal masks could also reduce the country's projected daily case count for November 1 by more than half, according to the research. The daily case count in the U.S. is currently projected to reach around 124,929 by November 1, the IHME noted.

If universal masks were applied across the country, the projected daily case count could be reduced to about 46,495 by November 1, over 62.7 percent less than the current daily case count projected by the institute for the same date.

The daily case count and daily death toll in Arizona, which was found to be the most "anti-mask" state by a survey of over 150,000 Twitter posts using anti-mask-related hashtags, could also be reduced by around 70 percent if universal masks were applied across the state.

The state's daily case count is projected to hit around 3,176 by November 1, which could be reduced to around 899 with universal mask usage, according to the IHME projection, a more than 71.6 percent reduction in daily new cases.

Arizona's daily death toll is expected to reach nearly 20 by November 1. But the projected daily death toll could be reduced by over 68 percent if universal masks were applied, the IHME noted.

Statewide mask mandates have been issued in several parts of the country, including most recently in Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Masks are currently not required in Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Face coverings are required in certain counties and cities within Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

This week, President Donald Trump appeared to have shifted from a reluctance to wearing face masks to suggesting they are patriotic, while sharing a photo of himself wearing one in a post Monday on his official Twitter account.

We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President! pic.twitter.com/iQOd1whktN

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2020

COVID-19 data projections for November 1

Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)


Current projected U.S. daily case count: 124,929.16
Projection with universal masks: 46,495.91

Current projected U.S. daily death toll: 814.76
Projection with universal masks: : 273.48

Arizona (the most "anti-mask" state)

Current projected Arizona daily case count: 3,176.39
Projection with universal masks: 899.5

Current projected Arizona daily death toll: 19.84
Projection with universal masks: 6.34

Lady Liberty Las Vegas statue July 2020
An oversized face mask, that reads "Vegas Safely", covers the face of the half-sized replica of Lady Liberty in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 20, 2020. Getty Images

Over 14.7 million people across the globe have been infected since the virus was first reported in Wuhan, China, including 3.8 million in the U.S. More than 8.3 million globally have reportedly recovered from infection, while over 610,700 have died as of Tuesday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphics below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

1 of 3

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.

States with most COVID-19 cases
The U.S. states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. STATISTA

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. states and the European Union.

New COVID-19 cases in U.S. vs EU
Average number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the European Union. STATISTA