PLoS One. 2022 Jun 16;17(6):e0269339. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269339. eCollection 2022.
Use of face coverings has been shown to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Despite encouragements from the CDC and other public health entities, resistance to usage of masks remains, forcing government entities to create mandates to compel use. The state of Oklahoma did not create a state-wide mask mandate, but numerous municipalities within the state did. This study compares case rates in communities with mandates to those without mandates, at the same time and in the same state (thus keeping other mitigation approaches similar). Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 were extracted from the Oklahoma State Department of Health reportable disease database. Daily case rates were established based upon listed city of residence. The daily case rate difference between each locality with a mask mandate were compared to rates for the portions of the state without a mandate. All differences were then set to a d0 point of reference (date of mandate implementation). Piecewise linear regression analysis of the difference in SARS-CoV-2 infection rates between mandated and non-mandated populations before and after adoption of mask mandates was then done. Prior to adopting mask mandates, those municipalities that eventually adopted mandates had higher transmission rates than the rest of the state, with the mean case rate difference per 100,000 people increasing by 0.32 cases per day (slope of difference = 0.32; 95% CI 0.13 to 0.51). For the post-mandate time period, the differences are decreasing (slope of -0.24; 95% CI -0.32 to -0.15). The pre- and post- mandate slopes differed significantly (p<0.001). The change in slope direction (-0.59; 95% CI -0.80 to -0.37) shows a move toward reconvergence in new case diagnoses between the two populations. Compared to rates in communities without mask mandates, transmission rates of SARS-CoV-2 slowed notably in those communities that adopted a mask mandate. This study suggests that government mandates may play a role in reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and other infectious respiratory conditions.