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Without mask mandates, "there's no way" Georgia and other states can bring down coronavirus cases, doctor says

How some states flattened the curve
How some states flattened the curve 08:59

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's ban on local communities mandating masks "is incredibly disturbing and concerning," Dr. Uché Blackstock told CBSN Thursday. Blackstock, an emergency medicine physician and the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, warned that states will not be able to bring down the number of coronavirus cases without requiring people to wear masks in public. 

"One of my physician colleagues who's actually practicing in an ER in Georgia said it feels like he's actively trying to kill people," Blackstock said in response to Kemp's order. "We know the scientific evidence, we've seen it here in New York City, that masks work. It doesn't really make much sense at all … that he would issue this mandate, telling localities that they cannot mandate wearing masks."

The order, signed by Kemp on Wednesday, also voids any mandates that cities or counties had put in place. There are more than 120,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 deaths in Georgia, according to the state's department of public health

Blackstock said she expects the surge in cases will continue in Georgia unless restrictions are put in place. 

"There's no way that we can flatten the curve if people are not mandated to wear masks," she said, adding that it's especially important because asymptomatic and presymptomatic people — those who are infected with the coronavirus but don't show symptoms — can spread the virus. 

A recent model published by the National Academy of Sciences says asymptomatic and presymptomatic people could be responsible for 50% of COVID-19 cases. Another model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that tens of thousands of lives could be saved if all Americans wear masks

Georgia is just one of several states seeing rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The United States has broken its record for new single-day cases four times in the last nine days.

Blackstock said she had hoped states in the South and West would have learned from New York, which was the epicenter of the pandemic a few months ago, but has turned things around. 

"Last week we had one day where we had 0 deaths from COVID-19, but it took us 120 days to get there, and what it took was everyone wearing masks, it took good hand washing, and it took physical distancing, and it took us to the point where all nonessential workers had to stay home," she said.

"It's not too late" for the states with surging cases, Blackstock said. "I really hope that the governors of those states look at us and learn some really hard messages."

Blackstock also cautioned that New York, despite bringing cases down, is "still very much at risk" for another spike. New York City reported an uptick in infections among young people.

"We have people, especially over the summer, traveling, visiting family, going on vacation, and I think there is a natural tendency for people to become more relaxed when they see the numbers are getting better," she said. "I'm hoping that we are going to still follow the preventive measures that we need to follow in order to keep our numbers down."

New York still has measures in place, including wearing masks indoors and when social distancing is not possible as well as no indoor dining in the city.

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