OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Face mask mandates adopted in some Oklahoma communities to reduce the spread of COVID-19 seem to be working, according to a newspaper report.
Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows cities with mask mandates nearly cut in half their average number of new COVID-19 infections after three weeks, The Oklahoman reported Sunday.
In Oklahoma, 17 localities have adopted mask ordinances, according to data compiled by the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
On July 20, the rolling average of new COVID-19 virus cases in cities with mask ordinances was 457. By Aug. 12, that number had dropped 47% to 233, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Areas without mask ordinances also saw a 28% drop in new coronavirus cases during the same time period. That drop was likely due, in part, to some residents wearing face masks even where they aren’t required, the newspaper reported.
“They’re absolutely working,” State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks said of mask mandates.
The state Health Department on Sunday reported an increase of 566 confirmed coronavirus cases and one additional death, bringing the totals to 53,165 reported cases and 726 deaths. The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
There are 8,030 active cases of the virus and 44,409 people have recovered, according to the department.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Dr. David Kendrick, with the University of Oklahoma’s School of Community Medicine, said he’s also seeing indications that local mask mandates are reducing the percentage of COVID-19 virus tests that are positive.
Kendrick, who is also the CEO of Oklahoma’s nonprofit health information exchange MyHealth Access Network, looked at six cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, that have adopted mask ordinances.
In the first seven days after a mask policy went into effect, the positivity rate dropped by 0.47%. After 14 days, the positivity rate dropped by 7.57% and by 21 days, it had decreased by 5.73%.
“Masks are an important component of our response as a society and a state, and I think they’re with us for a while,” Kendrick said.
More data will allow researchers to see the trends of mask mandates more clearly, Kendrick said. All of Oklahoma’s local mask mandates have been in effect for less than two months.
The most recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force shows Oklahoma as one of nine states in the “red zone” for high per-capita infection rates, and recommends Oklahoma implement a statewide mask mandate.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has resisted calls for such a policy, saying he’s unsure how it would be enforced.
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