It seemed like the stuff of a quarantine nightmare. Two Missouri hair stylists started feeling ill just one day after returning to work at their salon. They ended up testing positive for COVID-19—but not until they had already given haircuts to 140 clients.
Public health officials in Springfield braced for the worst as all those who’d had appointments with the two Great Clips stylists went to get tested. When the results came back, they were shocked—and relieved—to find that not one of the salon customers had tested positive.
How did things turn out so well? One reason might be that all employees and patrons at the hair salon were required to wear masks. It now seems like the policy saved everybody from contracting the virus.
“The result appears to be one of the clearest real-world examples of the ability of masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus,” reported The Washington Post.
The incubation period if customers contracted the virus ended on June 8th, so health officials are now sure that those who came into contact with the hair stylists did not contract COVID-19. Now, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department is sponsoring a study of “the outbreak that never happened” in hopes of providing some insight into prevention measures that can save lives, and expand our understanding of how this novel spreads.
“This is exciting news about the value of masking to prevent COVID-19,” said Director of Health Clay Goddard. “We are studying more closely the details of these exposures, including what types of face coverings were worn and what other precautions were taken to lead to this encouraging result.”
In addition to requiring clients and employees to wear masks, public health officials also say that social distancing policies such as spreading out patron’s chairs in the waiting room and staggering appointments were also helpful in preventing infections.
While no method of preventing transmission of the virus is 100% effective, this incident is just the latest in a string of scientific studies illustrating the dramatic impact of wearing masks. Perhaps most notably, researchers from the University of California–San Diego, Caltech, and Texas A&M found that the spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China was found to be much less severe than in New York and Italy because its citizens were already prone to wearing masks against air pollution.
The World Health Organization also recently funded a study which drew the same conclusion based on the data from more than 170 other studies.
Dr. Hoyen hopes this good news will encourage Americans to do their part, saying “if everybody wears masks, we’re all much more protected.”
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