Uniform mask-wearing at one hair salon in Missouri may have prevented nearly 140 clients from contracting the novel coronavirus from two hairstylists infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In May, two hairstylists at Great Clips in Springfield, Mo., tested positive for COVID-19 after seeing clients at the salon located at 1864 S. Glenstone Ave. The stylists treated some 139 clients between the two of them.
However, none of the clients were sickened with COVID-19. Experts are crediting the use of face maks, at least in part, for preventing what could have been a significant outbreak of the deadly virus.
“Among 139 clients exposed to two symptomatic hair stylists with confirmed COVID-19 while both the stylists and the clients wore face masks, no symptomatic secondary cases were reported; among 67 clients tested for SARS-CoV-2, all test results were negative,” the report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reads. “Adherence to the community’s and company’s face-covering policy likely mitigated spread of SARS-CoV-2.”
“The citywide ordinance and company policy might have played a role in preventing spread of SARS-CoV-2 during these exposures,” the authors added in the report, published on Tuesday. “These findings support the role of source control in preventing transmission and can inform the development of public health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition to both stylists, 98 percent of clients who agreed to be interviewed for the report said they wore a face mask for the duration of their appointment. The other 2 percent said they wore a mask for part of the time.
The study’s authors did note, however, that the report was subject to some limitations. Most notably, while the local health department “monitored all exposed clients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and no clients developed symptoms, only a subset was tested.”
“Thus, asymptomatic clients could have been missed,” they wrote.
“Similarly, with a viral incubation period of 2-14 days, any COVID-19 PCR tests obtained from clients too early in their course of infection could return false-negative results,” the authors added. “To help mitigate this possibility, all exposed clients were offered testing on day 5 and were contacted daily to monitor for symptoms until day 14.”
A lack of information on other protective measures — namely hand washing and the use of gloves — was also not reported. If incorporated, these additional measures “could have influenced risk for infection,” the authors explained.
“Third, viral shedding is at its highest during the 2 to 3 days before symptom onset; any clients who interacted with the stylists before they became symptomatic were not recruited for contact tracing,” they continued. “Finally, the mode of interaction between stylist and client might have limited the potential for exposure to the virus. Services at salon A were limited to haircuts, facial hair trimmings, and perms. Most stylists cut hair while clients are facing away from them, which might have also limited transmission.”
Currently, there is no nationwide face mask mandate in the U.S.; in fact, President Trump was only recently seen wearing a face mask in public for the first time.
Though some states require face coverings in public, not all do, with some governors — such as Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who recently tested positive for COVID-19 — remaining strongly opposed to such a mandate.
However, the CDC this week called on all Americans to wear facial coverings following new findings that increased mask use has been effective in helping to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Fox Business’s Lucas Manfred contributed to this report.