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Face masks critical in preventing spread of COVID-19, Texas A&M study shows

Researchers found when masks were mandated in COVID-19 hot spots like Italy and New York City, the number of infections drastically dropped.

HOUSTON — Not wearing a mask or face covering when out in public and surrounded by people is an irresponsible choice. 

Now a new study led by Texas A&M researchers shows the most important thing you can do to beat this pandemic is wear a mask. 

"The disease is preventable if you wear a face mask," said Professor Renyi Zhang. 

Zhang led a team of researchers taking a look at infection trends in three COVID-19 hotspots, Wuhan, China, Italy and New York City. 

Widespread mask usage in Italy reduced the number of COVID infections by more than 78,000. 

In New York City infections dropped by more than 66,000. 

After New York issued a mandatory mask order, they started seeing 106 fewer new COVID-19 cases per day. That's a 3 percent daily drop. 

Other parts of the country not required to wear masks continued to see an increase of 70 new cases per day. 

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Researchers say that's because we've learned the virus spreads more easily through the air, through breathing, coughing and even talking. 

Their findings are simple: 

Social distancing matters. Washing your hands matters.

But both mean nothing if you don't use a mask in public. 

"If we all do the same thing here, there's a pretty high likelihood we can stop the pandemic," said Zhang. 

There is no statewide order mandating masks in Texas. But Harris County is considering requiring businesses to mandate masks. At least two Texas counties have already passed similar orders.

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