It’s been established that viral load and frequency of exposure to infected individuals increases one’s risk of contracting COVID-19. This puts urgent care providers and other healthcare professionals at increased risk compared with nonclinicians who are able to limit contacts. A new study published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that requiring patients to wear a mask offers significant protection to even those who are most likely to be exposed, supporting rules requiring people to do so before entering your urgent care center. The study, conducted at Mass General Brigham (MGB) identified healthcare workers (HCWs) providing both direct and indirect patient care who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 with reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction between March 1 and April 30, 2020. The study was broken up into three phases: 1) preintervention, before commencing universal masking of patients; 2) transition, the period preceding full implementation of universal masking of patients; and 3) intervention, once the policy was fully in place. The results were compelling. Of the 9,850 HCWs who were tested, 12.9% had positive results for SARS-CoV-2, overall. During the preintervention period, the positivity rate increased exponentially, peaking at 21.32%, with a weighted mean increase of 1.16% per day and a case doubling time of 3.6 days. During the intervention period, the positivity rate decreased linearly from 14.65% to 11.46%, with a weighted mean decline of 0.49% per day and a net slope change of 1.65% decline per day compared with the preintervention period. Consequently, the authors concluded that “Universal masking at MGB was associated with a significantly lower rate of SARS-CoV-2 positivity among HCWs.” Remind your staff that mask requirements are in place for their protection, and share these data to both support that stance but also reassure them that complying really does reduce their risk of getting sick.

Want to Protect Your Team? Enforce Universal Masking
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