Mask wearing in community settings reduces SARS-CoV-2 transmission
We resolve conflicting results regarding mask wearing against COVID-19. Most previous work focused on mask mandates; we study the effect of mask wearing directly. We find that population mask wearing notably reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission (mean mask-wearing levels corresponding to a 19% decrease in R). We use the largest wearing survey (n = 20 million) and obtain our estimates from regions across six continents. We account for nonpharmaceutical interventions and time spent in public, and quantify our uncertainty. Factors additional to mask mandates influenced the worldwide early uptake of mask wearing. Our analysis goes further than past work in the quality of wearing data–100 times the size with random sampling–geographical scope, a semimechanistic infection model, and the validation of our results.