Simply wearing a mask could mean thousands of fewer deaths in Georgia, researcher says

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News went through the numbers put together by medical experts from the University of Washington which showed in the short term, from right now through Aug. 1, less people will die if 95 percent of people wore masks.

Instead of a daily death toll averaging 550 deaths a day by Aug. 1, masks would bring that number down to 225 deaths a day -- that's half the number of people dying.

[Deaths from COVID-19 in Georgia could hit 10K by October]

Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez took a deeper look at this study and focused on Georgia with doctor Ali Mokdad from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHM, the group that has been releasing studies that have gotten lots of attention. 

On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a new executive order extending the state’s public health emergency over COVID-19.

The Georgia Department of Public Health updates its website every day at 3 p.m.

Here’s our conversation with Dr. Mokdad:

Estevez: There is a significant drop in deaths, Dr. Mokdad, if people wear a mask. Let’s talk about the numbers that you found.

Dr. Mokdad: So, if 95 percent of Americans wear a mask when they go out, we will see a reduction of 33,000 deaths between now and Oct. 1. And in Georgia, that’s about 3,400 in the reductions in mortality.

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Estevez: Let’s talk about, first of all before we get to Georgia, how did you find this study to be, what did you use to come up with 33,000 less deaths?

Dr. Mokdad: So, we have reviewed all the literature and all the studies about the protective effect of masks, and we have a 34 percent reduction in transmission, which is the lowest one from using a cloth mask. Any mask will work if you cover your mouth and nose.

Estevez: Let’s deviate to that before we even get to Georgia, because that is fascinating. You and I were talking offline here, we’re not talking the big N-95 masks, that increases it even more? We’re talking just a simple face covering.

Dr. Mokdad: Exactly. That’s a simple face cover that you cover your face and nose when you go out. And not a N-95.

Estevez: N-95′s save how many more lives?

Dr. Mokdad: It goes to 50 percent in reduction of transmission of the virus. Now we are at 34 precent with a cloth mask.

Estevez: Georgia, there’s a savings of a few thousand lives. Explain that.

Dr. Mokdad: In Georgia, we see about 2,400 life savings. That’s a function of the people in Georgia. We don’t see a high use of the masks in Georgia. Come on Georgia, you can do better, please help us to control this virus.