What to expect: comparing Texas COVID-19 cases to cases in states without mask mandate

Texas is now two days from Governor Abbott’s new executive order taking effect, meaning all businesses can open 100 percent and the mask mandate goes away.

So what could that mean for the spread of COVID-19 in the Lone Star State?

A lot of people are afraid removing the mask mandate could mean a spike in COVID cases and deaths. A look at other states could provide insight on what to expect in Texas. There are currently 15 other states that don’t have mask mandates.

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The CDC tracked COVID cases per 100,000 people since last year for each state. A lineup of Texas against the 15 states without mask mandates shows very similar case counts between the states, despite the fact Texas had a mandate to wear masks in place since July and the others did not. 

A lineup of COVID-related deaths in the same unmandated states compared to Texas lands Texas somewhere in the middle, implying there is little difference in case count whether a mask mandate is in place or not. 

The CDC data looks different at the county level, according to Dr. Hana El Sahly, associated professor of molecular virology, microbiology and medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

"There was an association with whenever the mask mandates at the county level were introduced, the case rate for COVID, the death rate from COVID declined," said El Sahly.

Many of the states without statewide mask mandates do still have mask requirements in their most populous counties.