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HANNAH BLEAU

11 Nov 2021

States with widespread mask mandates in place are reporting more cases of the Chinese coronavirus per capita than maskless states such as Florida, furthering the longtime debate over the efficacy of masks.

Six states currently have mask mandates in place — Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington — as well as Washington, DC.

Yet, all but Hawaii are reporting far higher coronavirus case numbers per capita than Florida, one of the few states that never implemented a statewide mask mandate during the pandemic. 

Illinois is currently experiencing a significant surge, seeing a daily average of 3,112 cases, or 25 per capita. That represents a 49 percent increase in cases over the last two weeks alone, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus map and case count last updated Thursday. All the while, public health officials in the Prairie State are showing no signs of lifting the mask mandate — which has been in place for over two months — before the holidays. 

Citing substantial spread of the coronavirus across the state, Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces a statewide mandate requiring masks be worn in all Illinois public schools, preschool through high school, on August 04, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In Nevada, which requires all counties that are “experiencing substantial or high transmission levels based on the latest CDC COVID-19 tracker” to follow mask requirements, there has been a 15 percent increase in cases over the last two weeks, as the state is reporting a daily average of 742 cases, or 24 per capita. 

New Mexico’s mask mandate was slated to end November 17, but public health officials recently suggested it could go on longer. It is reporting a daily average of 1,270 cases, or 61 per 100,000. That represents a 46 percent increase in the last 14 days. 

Washington and Oregon, the latter of which has an outdoor mask mandate, are reporting 24 and 22 cases per capita, respectively.  The daily average of cases for Washington is 1,798 and 937 for Oregon. 

Hawaii is the only state to come close to Florida, which has consistently reported the lowest coronavirus cases per capita in the United States. As of Thursday, both states were reporting seven cases per capita — the lowest of all states in the nation. 

The news follows months of debate over the efficacy of masks and coincides with a University of Waterloo study, which found that cloth and surgical masks are roughly 10 percent efficient at blocking exhaled aerosols.