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Study: Mask mandates have been effective in slowing down COVID-19 in Denton, Tarrant, Dallas counties

Collin County is showing the least change in a positive direction, the report said.
Credit: AP
A woman walks out of a liquor store past a sign requesting its customers to wear a mask Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif. The state Department of Public Health recorded more than 5,000 new cases Tuesday, putting the total number of positive cases at more than 183,000. The state has seen more than 5,500 deaths related to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The University of North Texas Health Science Center released a report Monday which aimed to answer a few questions: Can hospitals still be at risk to be overwhelmed? Have we reversed the trend?

Has the mask mandate been effective locally?

“The answer is a resounding ‘yes,’” the report said.

The latest in a series of reports by Rajesh R. Nandy, an associate professor of biostatics and epidemiology at the HSC School of Public Health, examined data from the time the county-wide mask mandates went into place during the third week of June and studied the effects for the following two weeks.

By July 2, Gov. Greg Abbott had issued a statewide mask mandate for counties with more than 20 cases of COVID-19.

Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties are showing trends of slowing down the coronavirus in terms of emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Collin County is showing the least change in a positive direction, which “further reinforces the efficacy of the mandate,” the report said.

Collin County did not put a county-wide mask mandate into place.

A mask mandate was not issued in Denton County, but there is one in the City of Denton.

The report said current data projects growth in hospitalizations for Collin County.

Reversal in trend

The study looked at hospitalization for suspected COVID-19 patients in all four counties, as well as emergency room visits for suspected COVID-19 patients.

There is stabilization in terms of growth for the virus. A reversal in the trend is “quite apparent” for both Dallas and Tarrant counties in the timeframe based on mask mandate with Tarrant County depicting a sharp change, the report said.

The same trend is shown for daily hospitalization and ER visit data for suspected COVID patients.

In Denton County, hospitalization data shows a reversal of the trend.

The study gave future projections for if there is no change in the current trend.

Will hospital capacities be overwhelmed?

It's unlikely to happen in the immediate future, but there is a projected growth in hospitalizations in Collin County.

"However, the hospitals are currently operating at close to 80% capacity," the report said. "Since the number of daily new cases are still very high, we do not have a lot of headroom in the event things take a negative turn."

The report also mentioned besides physical capacity, there is also a consideration of enough available healthcare personnel at hospitals.

"There is some evidence of fatigue for healthcare workers from their relentless work since the start of the pandemic," the report said.

Will it be necessary to "shelter in place" again?

The usage of masks has been mandated and data suggest stabilization in the number of daily new cases. There has also been a steady decline in retail mobility since June 18, which could also be helping control the transmission of the virus.

"A few days of good data shouldn't make us complacent because it's a long game until we have a vaccine or a treatment that's established to work very well," the report said.

A shelter in place measure should not be ruled out in the event of another surge, the report said.

States with mask mandates

States that have had mask mandates since May, there was a decrease in the average number of daily new cases or a marginal increase.

For states without mask mandates effective in May, there were only three states that decreased in the average number of daily new cases and each of these three states is sparsely populated.

The remaining 34 states without mask mandate exhibited an increase in the average number of daily new cases.

The effect is large enough to conclude with confidence that the overall impact of early mask mandates has been positive in preventing a surge, the report said.

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