Missouri Dept. of Health under fire for ignoring data on effectiveness of mask mandates

Missouri Dept. of Health under fire for ignoring data on effectiveness of mask mandates
Senior Airman Alexis Lopez, dental assistant with the 319th Medical Group, demonstrates proper sanitary procedure by putting on a face mask at the medical treatment facility at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 7, 2017. Lopez said in addition to personal sanitation, there are also multiple steps taken to ensure treatment rooms are sanitary and prepared for patient use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez)

An analysis by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' explained the effectiveness of mask mandates and how they actually do aid in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. However, according to St. Louis Public Radio, this document was not made available to the public.

In fact, the documents may have remained undisclosed if it were not for a Sunshine Law request to the health department from the Missouri Independent and the Documenting COVID-19 project. Per Newsweek, the study "compared infection and death rates in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City and Jackson County with the rest of the state."

It also detailed statewide statistics on COVID data. "For every 100,000 residents, there was an average of 15.8 cases per day in communities with mask mandates, and 21.7 cases per day for every 100,000 residents in communities without mask mandates," Newsweek reported.

In a series of emails, Missouri Health Director Donald Kauerauf reportedly spoke with other health officials as he

discussed details of the study's findings.

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"[T]here are 'lots' of variables that must be considered before we can definitively assess the impact of wearing a mask [or not wearing a mask] in Missouri before and during the primary Delta period," Kauerauf wrote. "However, I think we can say with great confidence reviewing the public health literature and then looking at the results in your study that communities where masks were required had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and experienced lower death rates."

Although Kauerauf forwarded the details to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's (R) legislative budget director Alex Tuttle on November 3, "that information was never included in material the department prepared for cabinet meetings, and was never released to the public," per the Missouri Independent.

Speaking to St. Louis Public Radio, Nick Dunne, a spokesperson for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (D) weighed in with his understanding of the data saying, "more than anything, [the data] confirms for us what our public health experts have been saying: that masks are an effective tool for reducing community transmission."

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page released a statement saying, "This data shows that the public health experts, the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force, and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health make good decisions to protect our community."

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