Published at PLOS ONE
We extend previous studies on the impact of masks on COVID-19 outcomes by investigating an unprecedented breadth and depth of health outcomes, geographical resolutions, types of mask mandates, early versus later waves and controlling for other government interventions, mobility testing rate and weather. We show that mask mandates are associated with a statistically significant decrease in new cases (-3.55 per 100K), deaths (-0.13 per 100K), and the proportion of hospital admissions (-2.38 percentage points) up to 40 days after the introduction of mask mandates both at the state and county level. These effects are large, corresponding to 14% of the highest recorded number of cases, 13% of deaths, and 7% of admission proportion. We also find that mask mandates are linked to a 23.4 percentage point increase in mask adherence in four diverse states. Given the recent lifting of mandates, we estimate that the ending of mask mandates in these states is associated with a decrease of -3.19 percentage points in mask adherence and 12 per 100K (13% of the highest recorded number) of daily new cases with no significant effect on hospitalizations and deaths. Lastly, using a large novel survey dataset of 847 thousand responses in 69 countries, we introduce the novel results that community mask adherence and community attitudes towards masks are associated with a reduction in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Our results have policy implications for reinforcing the need to maintain and encourage mask-wearing by the public, especially in light of some states starting to remove their mask mandates.