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Governor partisanship explains the adoption of statewide mask mandates in response to COVID-19

By Christopher Adolph, Kenya Amano, Bree Bang-Jensen, Nancy Fullman, Beatrice Magistro, Grace Reinke, John Wilkerson

Posted 02 Sep 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.31.20185371

Public mask use has emerged as a key tool in response to COVID-19. We develop and document a classification of statewide mask mandates that reveals variation in their scope and timing. Some U.S. states quickly mandated the wearing of face coverings in most public spaces, whereas others issued narrow mandates or no mandate at all. We consider how differences in COVID-19 epidemiological indicators and partisan politics affect when states adopted broad mask mandates, starting with the earliest broad public mask mandates in April 2020 and continuing though the end of 2020. The most important predictor is whether a state is led by a Republican governor. These states adopt statewide indoor mask mandates an estimated 98.0 days slower (95% CI: 88.8 to 107.3), if they did so at all (hazard ratio of 7.54, 95% CI: 2.87 to 16.19). COVID-19 indicators such as confirmed cases or deaths per million are much less important predictors of statewide mask mandates. This finding highlights a key challenge to public efforts to increase mask-wearing, one of the most effective tools for preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 while restoring economic activity.

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