© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Coronavirus

SLU Study Shows St. Louis, St. Louis County Mask Mandates Slowed Coronavirus Infections

A Goodwill employee wears a face mask inside the MERS Goodwill store in St. Louis in May. A new study from SLU shows the city's mask mandate significantly slowed the rate of infection compared with other nearby counties.
File Photo / David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A Goodwill employee wears a face mask inside the MERS Goodwill store in St. Louis in May. A new study from SLU shows the city's mask mandate significantly slowed the rate of infection compared with other nearby counties.

Epidemiologists at St Louis University say the rate of new coronavirus cases significantly decreased in St. Louis and St. Louis County after government officials began requiring people to wear masks in public.

The findings come from a preliminary study in which researchers studied coronavirus cases in St. Louis and St. Louis County and compared the data to that of St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties, which did not require masks.

Before St. Louis and St Louis County began requiring face coverings in July, the rates of new cases in all the counties were similar.

But three weeks after the city and county began requiring masks, their rate of new infections was 44% lower than those of the other counties, researchers said.

The findings are still in draft form and have not been peer-reviewed.

Doctors across Missouri are pleading with Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate to help control the spread of the virus.

“If we were able to implement a wider mask mandate, we would have far fewer cases, and that would support our whole health system and our public health infrastructure,” said Dr. Enbal Shacham, study co-author and St. Louis University public health professor.

The coronavirus has continued to spread unchecked throughout the state, with close to 21% of coronavirus tests coming back positive, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

“There’s so much COVID that is happening and intrinsic throughout our community, throughout our state, we need something that will help reduce some of those infections,” Shacham said.

She expects to see more local and county leaders begin to require masks if the state doesn't issue a mandate, she said.

Franklin County recently announced it would require masks until at least Dec. 20.

Dr. Alex Garza, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force commander, implored the state to issue a mask order earlier this month. Soon after, the Missouri Hospital Association made the same plea in an open letter to Parson.

On Friday, Garza said a statewide safer-at-home order was necessary to keep hospitals from reaching crisis levels of patients.

“I believe the only way we can knock this down in a decisive action is through policy change,” Garza said. “It will pay off in lives saved, and I don’t know what better bargain you have than that.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter @petit_smudge

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.