The two hair stylists in Springfield, Mo., broke the cardinal rule of infection control: Despite having respiratory symptoms, one went to work and saw clients for eight days, when she learned she had tested positive for Covid-19. Her colleague also developed symptoms, three days after her co-worker, and also kept working until she tested positive, two days after the first stylist. Together, they saw 139 clients, with appointments for haircuts, shaves, and perms lasting 15 to 45 minutes.
Yet when the local health department identified and contacted the 139 clients, asking them to self-quarantine for 14 days and checking in daily about whether they had developed Covid-19 symptoms, not a single one (of the 104 who agreed to be interviewed) did. Of the 67 who consented to a swab test, every one tested negative. There was one other notable fact about the case: Both stylists and every client had worn a face covering.
The stark case, described on Tuesday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, adds to the near-universal scientific consensus that, more than any of single action short of everyone entering solitary confinement, face coverings can prevent the transmission of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
“Like herd immunity with vaccines, the more individuals wear cloth face coverings in public places where they may be close together, the more the entire community is protected,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and two colleagues wrote in an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also published on Tuesday. Because cloth face coverings can also allow states to more safely ease stay-at-home orders and business closings, Redfield told a JAMA Live webcast Tuesday, “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.”
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