Motallebi S, Cheung RCY, Mohit B, Shahabi S, Alishahi Tabriz A, Moattari S
Am J Prev Med 62 (4) 483-491 [2022-04-00; online 2021-11-11]
Despite ongoing efforts to vaccinate communities against COVID-19, the necessity of face mask use in controlling the pandemic remains subject to debate. Several studies have investigated face masks and COVID-19, covering smaller and less diverse populations than this study's sample. This study examines a hypothesized association of face-covering mandates with COVID-19 mortality decline across 44 countries in 2 continents. In a retrospective cohort study, changes in COVID-19‒related daily mortality rate per million population from February 15 to May 31, 2020 were compared between 27 countries with and 17 countries without face mask mandates in nearly 1 billion (911,446,220 total) people. Longitudinal mixed effect modeling was applied and adjusted for over 10 relevant demographic, social, clinical, and time-dependent confounders. Average COVID-19 mortality per million was 288.54 in countries without face mask policies and 48.40 in countries with face mask policies. In no mask countries, adjusted average daily increase was 0.1553 - 0.0017 X (days since the first case) log deaths per million, compared with 0.0900 - 0.0009 X (days since the first case) log deaths per million in the countries with a mandate. A total of 60 days into the pandemic, countries without face mask mandates had an average daily increase of 0.0533 deaths per million, compared with the average daily increase of 0.0360 deaths per million for countries with face mask mandates. This study's significant results show that face mask mandates were associated with lower COVID-19 deaths rates than the rates in countries without mandates. These findings support the use of face masks to prevent excess COVID-19 deaths and should be advised during airborne disease epidemics.