A strict masking policy resulted in markedly lower COVID-19 rates among healthcare workers, according to a new paper published in JAMA.
Researchers tracked infection rates at Boston’s Mass General Brigham health system after a plan to require surgical masks was announced in March 2020. Mass General Brigham has 78,000 employees at its 12 hospitals, including Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, both LUMEDX client partners.
Before the masking policy was implemented, the coronavirus infection rate increased exponentially from 0 percent to 21 percent, with cases doubling every 3.6 days. After the policy was implemented, while case numbers continued to increase in Massachusetts, the rate of positive coronavirus tests decreased from 15 percent to 11 percent.
“For those who have been waiting for data before adopting the practice, this paper makes it clear: Masks work,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Mass General Brigham. “These results support universal masking as part of a multipronged, infection-reduction strategy in healthcare settings.”
Despite the heated debate surrounding mandatory mask policies, hospitals face the important task of protecting healthcare providers—and by extension, patients—while still preserving PPE supplies.
“When our infection control leaders announced a universal masking policy early in the pandemic it was a bold move, especially at a time when, like all health systems, we were facing PPE shortages,” Dean Hashimoto, MD, the chief medical officer for occupational health services at Mass General Brigham, added. “But the results of this study demonstrate that requiring masks for all hospital staff regardless of role in the organization was critical to protecting our employees.”
You can see the published study at JAMA or read the press release from Mass General Brigham here.