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Regenstrief scientist develops criteria that could be used for mask mandates

Dr. Michael Weiner

Dr. Michael Weiner (Regenstrief Institute)

A research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis has co-authored a paper he hopes will help bring some clarity to mask wearing.

In a soon-to-be published paper, Dr. Michael Weiner and two colleagues have developed what may be the first evidence-based criteria for when to wear masks in indoor public areas.

Weiner says there are two main differences between their criteria for masking and that used by the CDC, which helped guide the government’s masking decisions.

One is Wiener’s criteria focuses on communities, whereas the CDC’s is based more on hospitalizations.

“Second, whereas the CDC focuses on cases of disease, and we focus on cases as well as deaths, including changes to deaths, and we think that including deaths in decision making like this is very important,” Weiner said.

The authors proposed five criteria to be used for mandates using the season flu as a baseline. They are contagiousness (the speed of transmissibility), vulnerability of the community (rate of infection vs. national rate), harm caused by the disease (deaths per week), severity of the harm (fatality rate) and direction of the harm (change in deaths per week).

Each criteria would be scored, and once the combined score is higher than that of the flu, they would suggest masks be worn.

Weiner believes that having standard criteria would clear up confusion about when to wear masks that has led to a lot of hesitancy – and division.

“We believe that a more rigorous approach could actually enhance the predictability of masking requirements, so that we can know when to relax those requirements,” Weiner said. “Adding this kind of structure could actually make for a more coherent discussion and help us resolve trade-offs between individual protection and community protection.”

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