More research supports the benefits of mask-wearing for healthcare workers

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  • Mask-wearing reduces healthcare workers' risk of contracting Covid-19
  • After the mask policy was implemented, a drop in infections was noticed after a few days
  • The study also found that nurses have a higher chance of contracting the virus than other healthcare workers

A new study found that the implementation of a universal mask policy early on in the Covid-19 pandemic was associated with reducing healthcare workers' risk of contracting the disease.

The research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine investigated the effects of a universal facemask policy for healthcare workers (HCW) on the incidence of Covid-19.

Establishing a mask policy

The scientists conducted daily testing from 12 March  to 10 August 2020 on healthcare workers at the Henry Ford Medical Centre in the US.  

A total of 6 429 of 33 538 HCW were tested during the study period. This included 2 278 nurses, 853 allied health professionals, 541 administrative support non-clinical roles, and 571 Physicians and other staff. 

The medical group implemented a universal mask policy issued on 26 March 2020 for all staff, both clinical and non-clinical. Workers received surgical or procedural masks and it was mandated that all staff wear a mask at work while also following other personal protective equipment requirements.

The study was divided into four phases: a pre-intervention phase; a transition period, allowing for passage of a 14-day incubation period from the time of universal HCW facemask policy implementation; a postintervention period; and a follow-up period.

A drop in cases after mask policy implementation

Not long after implementing the mask-wearing policy, the data showed a drop in the number of healthcare workers testing positive for Covid-19 at the healthcare facility. 

The scientists estimated a change point in the data from 28 March to 30 March. Before 28 March, the odds of a tested healthcare worker having a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result doubled every 4.5 to 7.5 days. 

After the changing point, they observed a downward trend in the number of Covid-19 positive cases. (The odds of a tested HCW employee obtaining a positive result halved every 10.5 to 13.5 days.)

By the time the first peak in Covid-19 cases occurred in the general population, the rate of cases among Henry Ford healthcare workers was therefore already on a downward slope.

"This research reinforces the fact that mask-wearing is effective in reducing the risk of acquiring Covid-19 and validated our decision early on to implement the universal mask policy, not only to protect our team members but also to ensure they are able to care for members of the community who had contracted Covid-19," says Dr Steven Kalkanis, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group in a statement.

The study also identified nurses as having the highest occupational risk of contracting Covid-19 among all healthcare workers. 

READ| Covid-19 can infect cells in the mouth - which could then transmit it to other parts of the body

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