Henry Ford study shows face masks are strongly associated with reducing healthcare workers’ risk of acquiring COVID-19

March 30, 2021

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine from researchers at Henry Ford Health System has found that Henry Ford’s early implementation of a universal mask policy in the COVID-19 pandemic was strongly associated with reducing the risk of healthcare workers at Henry Ford acquiring COVID-19, reported the health system. 

Through retrospective analysis of an internal hospital quality metric reporting analytics database that was not associated with electronic medical records, researchers discovered a correlation between the implementation of Henry Ford’s universal mask policy and a significant drop in the rate at which its healthcare workers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. As COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations across the State of Michigan continued to rise through late March 2020, the cases among Henry Ford’s healthcare workers began to fall. 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 already trending downward.

Steven Kalkanis, M.D., CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group, said, “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.”  

Healthcare workers have a threefold increased risk of reporting testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, compared to the general population, according to a study published in Lancet Public Health. As of March 22, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported more than 450,000 SARS-CoV-2 infections among healthcare workers in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic, and nearly 1,500 COVID-19 related deaths among healthcare workers.  

From March 12 to Aug. 10, 2020, 19.2% of healthcare workers at Henry Ford were symptomatic for COVID-19 and underwent SARS-CoV-2 testing. Before March 28 to 30 – the single changepoint in the data when the rate of new cases began to trend downward – the odds of a tested healthcare 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 healthcare worker having a positive result reduced by half every 10.5 to 13.5 days.  

With the arrival of COVID-variants in the community, even with COVID-19 vaccines now being rolled out, healthcare workers and community members should remain vigilant and continue to wear a mask in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Henry Ford Health System has the release.

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