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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Vanderbilt researchers find link between mask requirements and hospitalization growth

“We know from looking at the numbers now that it has in fact arrived at every single county across Tennessee," said Melissa McPheeters.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We are months into the coronavirus pandemic. Research is constantly being conducting to learn more about COVID-19 including whether masks are truly effective at protecting you from the virus.

Local 24 News Reporter, Brittani Moncrease, spoke with researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center about their latest study on the spread of the virus. 

We have repeatedly talked about how masks can help in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Vanderbilt University is looking deeper into how much a difference of requiring masks and not requiring masks can make. Vanderbilt University researchers call it the three W's.

“Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance,” said Melissa McPheeters, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Research Professor of Health Policy and Biomedical Informatics.

McPheeters said the more people follow the three Ws, “the faster we’re going to be able to get this under control.

Vanderbilt researchers have taken a closer look at mask requirements across Tennessee and its relationship to the growth in hospitalizations. Hospitals with more than 75-percent of their patients from areas without a mask mandate are significantly impacted.  

“We saw that in the period of just July 1st to August 1st a 200% increase in hospitalization numbers. Those went up a lot,” said McPheeters. 

Keep in mind, this just means cases at these hospitals are growing at a faster rate.  

“That compares to like a 30% to 40% increase in places that have a mass majority of their patients from places that do have a mask mandate,” said McPheeters.

As of Monday, 26 Tennessee counties have mask mandates representing 68% of the state's population.  

“Of course, the concern is that if that pace of increase is so fast, even if the numbers are fairly low right now, that that could make those numbers go up so much faster and be harder to pull back because it’s increasing so much,” said McPheeters.

There are other factors outside of masks to consider. 

“Communities that enact a mask requirement often have other things going on too like limits on number of people who can gather, requirements about certain types of businesses,” said McPheeters. 

Aside from these other factors, health officials are sure.

“Masks work,” said McPheeters.

The number of areas with mask mandates changes each day with some extending them and others implementing. Researchers said they will continue to keep an eye on that data.