In the state of Florida, the SARS-Cov-2 infection rate has soared 1,061 percent since mid-April. During the same period, the state of Maryland’s infection rate decreased by 32 percent. A Proclamation by executive order was issued requiring face coverings in common indoor public spaces by Md. Gov. Larry Hogan effective April 18. The state of Maryland achieved the one-third decrease in infection rates three months later. Florida presently has six times the infection rate per capita of Maryland, w
hich abuts the populous D.C.-metropolitan area.
Maryland’s executive order requires people to wear face coverings in common indoor public areas such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, laundromats, and in enclosed public-service transportation areas including taxis, subways, trains, and buses. The Proclamation extends during the period of time that Maryland remains in a state of emergency, which is still in effect. The Maryland executive order regarding use of face coverings in public specifies requirements that include an age-range limit and employee-use when engaging indoors with the public. The order also distinguished consumer face coverings from medical use personal protective equipment, or PPE, which is not required for use by the general public.
Like Maryland, the European Union (EU) also has flattened the curve. The U.S. infection rate climbed to 18 times that of the European Union (EU) per capita by the end of June. At the same time, the EU’s curve has remained flat. The EU’s success in the fight against Covid-19 is due in part to minimum breathability and filtration requirements for public face masks. The EU set the criteria along with testing methods to ensure conformance among face-covering manufacturers. At the present time, the United States has not issued guidelines on safe and effective materials for consumer facemasks.
By late March, European authorities had set up a new category of face coverings separate from traditionally regulated “professional-use masks,” or PPE. The effort led to standardization activities for producing “community face masks” worn by healthy or asymptomatic members of the general public at a time when U.S. cities, counties, and local communities were scrambling to learn best methods, materials, and practices from YouTube videos. Those criteria provide broad-based confidence among community users and helped the EU flatten its curve.
Florida has become a global epicenter of the pandemic ranking number one for most infections with 15,300 in a single day nationwide in July. ###
Rosalie Marion Bliss, MA, writes about research-based news focused on public face mask quality and standards for non-PPE face coverings free during the pandemic. Bliss formerly was science writer and public affairs specialist for USDA’s chief scientific research agency.