BOSTON (WGGB/WSHM) -- Masks may be the key to stopping the coronavirus. That's the message of a new study by Mass General Brigham in Boston.

Researchers found when universal masking was mandated, infection rates dropped.

When COVID-19 first broke out, you'll recall there were mixed messages for a while, even at the federal level on whether to wear a mask or not wear a mask.

Researchers at Mass General Brigham looked back at that time, within their own hospital system, when really only staff were required to wear a mask.

They then compared it to when the state made masks mandatory for everyone and found dramatic results on infection rates.

Researchers at Mass General Brigham found when hospital staff and patients both wore masks, COVID-19 infection rates fell significantly from the middle of March to the end of April.

Researchers said their findings may seem logical now to many, but hopes it will send a signal to all: that wearing a mask, in any setting, saves lives.

“Hopefully, this will help convince people who have been skeptical or on the fence about masking and push them over to what many had already adopted on the basis of common sense and on the basis of history,” said Dr. Deepak Bhatt at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Baystate Medical Center infectious disease Dr. Armando Paez said while no formal study has been done at Baystate, “Well, actually we had a similar experience.”

When masks were required for everyone - staff and patients – on April 8, infection rates went down.

“We have a considerable low rate across the board, but it’s very similar to what they've experienced in Boston,” Paez noted.

Simply put, Paez said, the data shows wearing a mask reduces infection.

“It can significantly reduce the transmission and supports the fact that it’s mainly transmitted through respiratory route. What this study shows is that we have direct evidence opposed to indirect evidence that support this particularly among healthcare workers,” Paez explained.

The study comes on the heels of a warning from the CDC director that this fall and winter could be one of the most difficult in American public health, if we don't take steps now.

“If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, I think we could drive this epidemic to the ground in the country,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

The study found that N-95 and surgical masks are more effective than bandannas and scarves, but face coverings, including the homemade kind, do a good job and are far better than not wearing a mask at all.

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