Syamak Moattari

Moattari Co-Authored Study Finds Mask Mandates Reduce COVID-19 Deaths

January 18, 2022
By: Nancy Sheehan

Syamak Moattari, MD, DrPH, associate professor in the Health Sciences Department, along with an international group of his colleagues have published a paper titled Modeling COVID-19 Mortality Across 44 Countries: Face Covering May Reduce Deaths in the prestigious American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study found that countries without face mask mandates experienced significantly higher COVID-19 deaths per million than countries that enacted mask mandates. The study shows that masks provide a supplementary layer of protection that could prevent unnecessary COVID-19 deaths.

The researchers analyzed data from 44 countries, comprising a population of almost 1 billion (911,446,220) persons in Europe and Asia. They concluded the average COVID-19 mortality per million was 288.54 in countries without face mask policies and 48.40 in countries with face mask policies.

“Mask mandates work,” Moattari said. “Mask mandate policy is a cost-effective and simple measure. Our study is among many studies that look at mask mandates from different angles and show that this policy is a good measure to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID.”

While several studies before this have looked at the impact of masks on COVID-19 cases, fewer studies were focused on whether mask wearing may reduce COVID-19 deaths, and no study had looked at the data across multiple countries, said lead investigator Sahar Motallebi, MD, MPH, of Malmo, Sweden. “The large sample of culturally diverse countries in this retrospective study covers a large population, giving us more evidence towards the life-saving potential of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Moattari became involved with them study when Motallebi, who has worked with the World Health Organization, reached out to him and a few other colleagues in the Washington, D.C., area and on the West Coast to create a team of experts to explore the issue. Moattari’s role was supervising the team and contributing to data curation and review and editing of the final manuscript.

The 44 countries studied reported 2,167,664 confirmed deaths, 1,253,757 in countries without face mask mandates and 913,907 in countries with face mask mandates. The average COVID-19 mortality per million population was 48.40 in countries with face mask policies and 288.54 in countries without face mask policies, and this was significantly greater compared to countries with mask mandates. Face mask countries had significantly lower average daily increase in deaths compared to no face mask countries.

Surprisingly, the countries with no mask mandate started with a lower COVID-19 daily mortality. However, the death rate accelerated so fast in those countries that they not only caught up with the death rate in mask law countries, but significantly surpassed them over time.

The study’s findings support the mask mandate President Barry M. Maloney has put in place at Worcester State University, Moattari said.

“I am glad WSU is very active in making the campus safe for students, faculty and staff,” he said. “We have some measures to reduce the exposure to COVID and to reduce the severity of the disease. A mask mandate is a measure we showed in our study that is associated with fewer death rates in countries with such a policy.”

Moattari said he hopes these findings will be helpful for evidence-based policymaking now and in future rapid responses to airborne epidemics

“The Safe Campus Executive Group created by President Maloney and his colleagues is a very good example of a participatory and interdisciplinary policy making system,” he said. “I see this mechanism as proactive and evidence based. Adding booster shots as a requirement, continuing social distancing, and making use of masks mandatory all are evidence-based and work for the greater good of the community despite the fact at individual level we might have some troubles complying with them.”

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