July 14 (UPI) — More than 75 percent of American adults wear face coverings when out in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The percentage of people who reported complying with agency recommendations to wear a face mask increased by about 13 percentage points from April to May, when just under 62 percent of Americans surveyed reported using them, the CDC researchers said.
Face coverings have become a politically divisive issue as states have started to relax social distancing measures put in place to contain the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. CDC researchers said the survey did not specifically address these issues.
“Continuing to track the sociodemographic differences and behavioral influences of use of cloth face coverings and other face masks over time is important as communities continue to monitor cases, hospitalizations, and deaths and enhance prevention strategies,” the CDC researchers wrote.
The agency first recommended the use of face masks or coverings April 3 as part of an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Several states — New York, among them — have since mandated the use of coverings in public spaces, including supermarkets and pharmacies, where social distancing may be difficult.
Scientific evidence to date has indicated that wearing a mask helps prevent spread of COVID-19.
Infection rates among staff at Mass General Brigham dropped from 21 percent before the 12-hospital system in Massachusetts instituted a policy requiring universal masking of all patients to 11.5 percent afterward, according to an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open.
In addition, N99 masks, which are designed to filter airborne particles — including the respiratory droplets that spread COVID-19 — were found by University of Arizona researchers to be up to 99 percent effective at blocking the virus even after a 20-minute exposure.
Arizona researchers found that more commonly available N95 masks were up to 60 percent effective and even homemade face coverings like scarves were more than 40 percent effective at preventing virus transmission, according to the study, published in June by the Journal of Hospital Infection.
For the CDC survey, agency researchers questioned more than 500 U.S. adults twice — the first time in April, just after its face mask recommendations were announced, and again in May, roughly one month later.
Seventy-six percent of participants in the survey said they were wearing masks in May, up from just under 62 percent who were wearing them in April, the CDC said.
Use of face coverings in public increased to 75 percent in May from 54 percent a month earlier among white Americans and rose to 79 percent from 37 percent among seniors age 65 and older over the same period, according to the agency.
Mask use also increased to 74 percent in May from 44 percent in April among Midwesterners, the CDC researchers said.
Still, mask-wearing remained most prevalent in the northeastern United States, where 87 percent said they used them in May, up from 77 percent in April, the CDC said.