Mask mandates delayed by nearly a month in Republican-led states, UW study finds

Person wearing a face mask with New York City skyline in the background

New York was one of the first states to impose a statewide mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic.Crystal Jo/Unsplash

Politics, above COVID-19 cases or deaths, determined whether states enacted mask mandates during the first months of the pandemic, a new study finds.

States with Republican governors delayed imposing indoor mask requirements by an average of nearly 30 days, controlling for other factors. The study by researchers at the University of Washington examined a series of factors surrounding the announcement (or lack thereof) of statewide mask mandates in all 50 states, and found that partisanship, particularly at the state executive level, where such restrictions can be imposed, was the most significant factor in the timing of new rules.

The paper is posted to the preprint server medRxiv and has not been peer-reviewed.

“Wearing masks in public places is one of the easiest ways to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, and clear, consistent mandates are one of the best tools we have to get everyone to wear masks regularly. Our team has been tracking mask mandates covering indoor public spaces, where the risk of transmission is highest, and we wanted to know whether adoption was really as partisan as it seemed, or if there were other explanations,” said Christopher Adolph, an associate professor of political science at the UW and lead author of the study. The research is part of the UW COVID-19 State Policy Project, led by Adolph and John Wilkerson, political science professor and chair of the department.

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