Mar 8, 2021 -- As more states drop COVID-19 restrictions, the CDC issued a report Friday saying coronavirus case counts went down when states mandated face masks and that coronavirus-related deaths went up in places when indoor dining resumed.

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, said that’s a good reason for states to stay vigilant with safety measures, especially during this period when national coronavirus statistics are leveling off but new variants are appearing.

“You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining,” Walensky said at a Friday news briefing. “We would advocate for policies, certainly while we’re at this plateau of a high number of cases, that would listen to that public health science.”

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said mask mandates adopted last year were linked to almost a 2% drop in new COVID cases within 100 days of adoption.

When states and localities lifted restrictions on in-person restaurant dining, they experienced a 1.1% increase in new coronavirus cases and a 3% increase in coronavirus-related deaths within 100 days of the lifting of those rules, the study said.

A number of states have eased some coronavirus restrictions recently, including Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Texas has been one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic, but Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Tuesday news release, “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.”

He also acknowledged that while there is no mask mandate in Texas, he personally would continue to wear one and recommended that others do so as well.

The CDC assessment of indoor dining drew a tart response from the National Restaurant Association, which called the study “more an ill-informed attack on the industry … than a reliable piece of scientific research.”

“Correlation does not equal causation. For example, if a positive correlation between ice cream sales and shark attacks is found, that would not mean that ice cream causes shark attacks. For restaurants, customer behavior outside the venue remains the major contributing factor in COVID-19 transmission,” the restaurant association statement said.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

CDC. “Association of State-Issued Mask Mandates and Allowing On-Premises Restaurant Dining with County-Level COVID-19 Case and Death Growth Rates — United States, March 1–December 31, 2020”

Governor of Texas. “Governor Abbott Lifts Mask Mandate, Opens Texas 100 Percent”

National Restaurant Association. “Sharks and Ice Cream; COVID-19 and Restaurants”

Houston Chronicle. “Gov. Greg Abbott recommends masks days after deeming actual mask mandate unnecessary

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