KDHE: Kansas “Experiment” Shows Masks Work

Kansas counties that have mask mandates in place have seen a rapid drop in cases, while counties that only recommend their use have seen no decrease in cases, the state’s top health official said Wednesday.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, said that overall statewide the numbers of new cases is favorable, but that the reduction of new cases is entirely in the counties that require masks be worn in public spaces.

After Governor Laura Kelly put a mask mandate in place last month, 15 counties stayed with the mandate while 90 counties abandoned it, Norman said at a news conference Wednesday.

Norman pointed a graph showing the seven-day rolling average of cases per 100,000 people comparing counties with the mask mandates with those counties that abandoned it.

The favorable trend line down was entirely in the counties that required the use of masks, while the trend line for those without one was flat, he said.

“Do masks work? Here in this natural experiment called Kansas where we have essentially — not due to any great design, but it has worked out that way — some counties have been the control group with a no mask mandate and some have been the experimental group with masks,” Norman said. “The experimental group is winning the battle. All improvements in case development comes from those counties wearing masks.”

It is important to understand, he noted, that the 15 counties with mask mandates represent two-thirds of the state’s population and include the more urban cities with greater population densities.

People in those counties rely more on mass transit there and tend to have more racial and ethnic minority populations that are more likely to be infected by COVID-19.

The declining coronavirus cases per capita in those more urban counties suggest the improvement in the trend lines could be even steeper in rural counties if they had mask mandates in place, he said.