A new report from the CDC emphasizes the importance of masking as well as restrictions on businesses to reduce COVID-19 cases, as several states move to end those rules
Texas bars
Bars and restaurants in Texas have reopened
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Mask mandates and restrictions on restaurants reduced the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S., according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, and states without them saw higher rates of illnesses and deaths.

The new report, which comes after states like Texas and Mississippi suddenly decided to lift all restrictions and mask requirements, points to the importance of these rules in lowering the spread of COVID-19.

CDC researchers looked at the COVID-19 trends before and after counties in the U.S. implemented mask mandates and made changes to the number of people allowed inside restaurants between March 2020 and December. In areas that required masks, the daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases went down by 1.8% in the first 100 days, and deaths declined by 1.9%.

At restaurants, regions that allowed in-person dining saw cases increase by 1.1% after 100 days, and deaths went up by 3%. However, the researchers did not indicate whether that was in places with indoor or outdoor dining.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the results show the need for masks and restrictions on restaurant dining, and called on legislators to continue with those COVID precautions.

"You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining," she said, according to The New York Times. "And so we would advocate for policies, certainly while we're at this plateau of a high number of cases, that would listen to that public health science."

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The decisions by GOP governors Greg Abbott of Texas, Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Kay Ivey of Alabama to end mask mandates and fully reopen have been slammed by public health experts, who said that while cases are declining nationwide it is far too early to make these changes, especially with several highly contagious virus variants now spreading.

On Sunday, Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and one of the top experts on President Joe Biden's COVID-19 response team warned that the U.S. is not fully through the pandemic.

"We are in the eye of the hurricane right now," Osterholm said on Meet the Press. "It appears that things are going very well — you even see blue skies. We've been through a terrible, terrible year."

"But," he continued, "we know what is about to come upon us is the situation with this B.1.1.7 variant," the strain of the virus that "wreaked havoc" in Europe after it first led to mass lockdowns in the U.K. With the strain now picking up in the U.S. — the CDC has identified 3,037 cases of the faster-spreading, and potentially more deadly variant so far — Osterholm said that the same could happen here.

"Many of these countries have been in lockdown now for two months just to try to control this virus," he said.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are down from the massive holiday surge, though they have started to plateau. As of March 8, more than 29,034,100 people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and 524,652 people have died from the virus, according to the Times.