While three U.S. states, and parts of other communities, have moved to reopen indoor dining in the last week, new CDC research directly links eating inside restaurants -- especially without mask mandates -- to increased COVID-19 cases and deaths. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
March 5 (UPI) -- States that lifted restrictions on indoor dining in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic last year saw 2% to 3% increases in daily death rates related to the virus 60 to 100 days after doing so, according an analysis released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rise corresponds to a roughly 1% daily increase in rates of confirmed cases in the states that lifted restrictions, the data showed.
The findings come just days after three states -- Texas, Alabama and Mississippi -- announced plans to lift mask mandates.
The same CDC analysis noted states that instituted mask mandates last year saw 1% to 2% drops in daily COVID-19 case and death rates within days of putting the restrictions in place.
"State mask mandates and prohibiting on-premises dining at restaurants help limit potential exposure to [the virus], reducing community transmission of COVID-19," agency researchers wrote.
"Mask mandates are associated with reductions in COVID-19 case and hospitalization growth rates, whereas reopening on-premises dining at restaurants, a known risk factor associated with ... increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly in the absence of mask mandates," they said.
For the analysis, CDC researchers compared county-level data on mask mandates and restaurant reopenings nationally with county-level changes in COVID-19 case and death growth rates relative to the mandate implementation and reopening dates.
States began to institute mask mandates and place restrictions on indoor dining -- and in some cases, banning it -- in March last year as the pandemic took hold across the country.
Surges in cases and deaths that occurred in many areas nationally were attributed to the lifting of these restrictions.
"Universal masking and avoiding nonessential indoor spaces are recommended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the CDC researchers wrote.
"With the emergence of more transmissible COVID-19 variants, community mitigation measures are increasingly important as part of a larger strategy to decrease exposure to and reduce transmission of [the virus]," they said.