In the state of Florida, the SARS-Cov-2 infection rate has soared 1,088 percent since mid-April. During the same period, the state of Maryland’s infection rate remained relatively flat. A Proclamation was issued requiring face coverings in common indoor public spaces by Md. Gov. Larry Hogan effective April 18. Three months later, Maryland achieved a one-third decrease in infection rates.
Florida’s infection rate now has soared beyond the infection rate per capita of mask- mandated states such as New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts (see graphic at end of story for comparisons).
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 order specifies requirements that include 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 other U.S. mask-mandated states, 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.
As early as late March, European authorities had set up a new regulatory 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. In contrast, U.S. cities, counties, and local communities are still learning best practices for evaluating, procuring, and wearing face masks from YouTube and other sources. The EU face mask 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.