Study: Face Masks Strongly Associated With Reducing Health Care Workers' Risk of Acquiring COVID-19

March 31, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

The team discovered a correlation between the implementation of Henry Ford’s universal mask policy and a significant drop in the rate at which its health care workers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers at Henry Ford Health System have found that the system’s early implementation of a universal mask policy during the COVID-19 pandemic was strongly associated with reducing the risk of health care workers at Henry Ford acquiring COVID-19.

Through a retrospective analysis of an internal hospital quality metric reporting analytics database that was not associated with electronic medical records, the team discovered a correlation between the implementation of Henry Ford’s universal mask policy and a significant drop in the rate at which its health care workers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. By the time the first peak in COVID-19 cases occurred in the general population, the rate of cases among Henry Ford health care workers was already trending downward, according to the study authors.

“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,” said Steven Kalkanis, MD, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group, in a press release. “At Henry Ford Health System, our universal mask policy issued on March 26, 2020 ensured all staff, both clinical and non-clinical, received surgical or procedural masks and mandated that staff wear a mask at work while also following all other personal protective equipment requirements. Our hope is that the findings of this study continue to encourage members of the community to wear a mask in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.”

From March 12, 2020, to August 10, 2020, 19.2% of health care workers at Henry Ford were symptomatic for COVID-19 and underwent SARS-CoV-2 testing. Before March 28 to March 30, the single changepoint in the data when the rate of new cases began to trend downward, the odds of a tested health care worker having a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result doubled every 4.5 to 7.5 days.

After March 30, the odds of a tested health care worker having a positive result decreased by half every 10.5 to 13.5 days, according to the study.

REFERENCE

Henry Ford Study Shows Face Masks Strongly Associated With Reducing Healthcare Workers’ Risk of Acquiring COVID-19. Henry Ford Health System. Published March 26, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2021. https://www.henryford.com/news/2021/03/universal-masks