Health officials widely agree that a face mask is the fastest and easiest way to help protect against the spread of of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, face mask policies and mandates are among the most debated consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
While face masks help stop transmission of COVID-19, scientists say there are many other reasons that individuals should continue to wear them. Still, plenty of Americans are tired of being forced to wear masks or adhere to mandates, and there’s science that also supports their side of the debate.
That said, here are five studies published on StudyFinds since the beginning of the pandemic that support the need for face masks and policies that require people wear them.
Be sure to check out the 5 Reasons To End COVID Face Mask Mandates In Place for a look at the other side of the coin.
Fewer deaths related to COVID-19
Researchers say that COVID-19 related deaths were significantly slower in countries with face mask mandates than those that did not.
In the study, a total of 27 countries with national policies for face masks and 17 countries without face masks were included. Among all countries studied, there was a total combined population of about one billion. Of this number, an astonishing 2,167,664 COVID-19 related deaths were reported. Researchers found that about 1.2 million people who died lived in countries without face mask mandates, while approximately 900,000 people lived in countries with mandates in place.
Further results show that the average COVID-19 mortality per million population was 48.40 in countries with mask mandates. In contrast, countries without mask mandates had an average 288.54 deaths per million. This shows that the mortality rate sped up rapidly in countries without face mask policies.
READ MORE: Face mask policies really do slow rate of deaths related to COVID-19
Face masks people appear more attractive
Along with helping to curb the spread of COVID-19, a new study says that masks may actually make wearers appear more attractive.
The study assessed how different types of face masks “changed attractiveness” among a group of 40 men. To gauge attractiveness, 43 women judged each man’s face across four scenarios: without a mask, while wearing a cloth mask, while wearing a blue medical face mask, and while holding a plain black book covering the area a face mask would conceal.
Researchers say blue medical masks increased attractiveness to most of its wearers. One reason could be that people are used to seeing healthcare workers wearing blue masks, thus associating these with people in caring or medical professions. Further results run counter to the idea where it was thought masks made people think wearers have diseases and should be avoided. This suggests that the pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive the wearers of masks.
READ MORE: ‘You’re cute, I think’: Face masks are making people appear more attractive
May create less severe COVID-19 symptoms
By now, many are aware that wearing a face mask helps people protect themselves and the others around them from COVID-19 infection. With that in mind, researchers from the National Institutes of Health suggest that face masks offer another major pandemic benefit: the potential for less severe COVID-19 symptoms in the event of infection.
In their study, four popular face mask varieties were tested; a three-ply disposable surgical mask, a two-ply cotton-polyester mask, a heavy cotton mask, and a N95 mask. Volunteers breathed into a sealed steel box to measure humidity levels. Without wearing the masks, participants’ exhalation quickly filled the box with water vapor, subsequently causing humidity to rise rapidly in the box. When participants did it again wearing masks, humidity buildup in the box decreased significantly. This is because most of the water vapor stays in the mask, where it is eventually inhaled again.
Thus, results show that face masks strongly increase the humidity in inhaled air, resulting in hydration of the respiratory tract. This could be responsible for the connection between lower COVID-19 disease severity and wearing a mask. In addition, high levels of humidity shows the ability to mitigate severity of the flu, and possibly applicable to the severity of COVID-19 through a similar mechanism.
READ MORE: Humidity from face masks may create less severe COVID-19 symptoms
Lower COVID rates
There’s a direct correlation between greater adherence to face masks and lower COVID-19 rates among U.S. states, according to a recent study. Different states have instituted their own versions of COVID-containment laws. Some have put stricter policies in place than others.
The study analyzed publicly available data regarding mask-wearing, as well as people’s self-reported habits on using masks in public. Scientists also took into account COVID-19 rates among all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. for the study period. They found that the effect of mask wearing is visible in COVID rates based on data gathered between May through October 2020, and a month later.
Moreover, among 15 U.S. states that did not mandate residents wear masks in public, 14 showed a high infection rate. Conversely, among the eight states that reported a mask compliance rate of at least 75 percent, not a single one displayed a high rate of COVID infection. Statistically, the eight states with a 75 percent rate of mask wearing had a mean COVID-19 rate of 109.26 per 100,000 residents the next month. Meanwhile, the mean COVID-19 rate was 239.99 for states with a compliance rate below 75 percent.
READ MORE: U.S. states with more people using face masks show lower COVID-19 rates
Face masks help jurors figure who’s lying on the court
When it comes to the legal system, a new study finds face masks may actually be helping people spot lies in court. It notes that when witnesses wear face masks, it makes it easier for people watching the testimony to pick out the lies in their statements.
Researchers analyzed hundreds of studies on deception. They show that facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication are actually unreliable measures of how deceitful someone is being. Moreover, masking these actions seems to improve a person’s ability to tell the difference between the truth and lies.
Looking at a collection of studies examining how well people pick up on deception through non-verbal behavior, the study says that the participants only spotted the lies half of the time. Concluding that some behaviors can appear more suspicious, liars know this and use other gestures to make themselves appear more genuine.
However, there is no evidence that virtual courtrooms are hindering an observer’s ability to spot deceptive statements in video chats.
READ MORE: Face masks actually help jurors figure out who’s lying in court
There are plenty of reasons on both sides of the coin when it comes to the debate over face mask mandates. Many of Americans believe it’s important to continue covering our faces, particularly indoors, while the pandemic continues. Others say these mandates go against basic American freedoms and that studies show the masks aren’t necessary. Of course, there are studies that support each position, but the debate isn’t likely to go anywhere while COVID-19 cases and deaths continue at a significant rate.