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Editorial
July 14, 2020

Universal Masking to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission—The Time Is Now

Author Affiliations
  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA. Published online July 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.13107

In this issue of JAMA, Wang et al present evidence that universal masking of health care workers (HCWs) and patients can help reduce transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections.1 In the largest health care system in Massachusetts with more than 75 000 employees, in tandem with routine symptom screening and diagnostic testing of symptomatic HCWs for SARS-CoV-2 infection, leadership mandated a policy of universal masking for all HCWs as well as for all patients. The authors present data that prior to implementation of universal masking in late March 2020, new infections among HCWs with direct or indirect patient contact were increasing exponentially, from 0% to 21.3% (a mean increase of 1.16% per day). However, after the universal masking policy was in place, the proportion of symptomatic HCWs with positive test results steadily declined, from 14.7% to 11.5% (a mean decrease of 0.49% per day). Although not a randomized clinical trial, this study provides critically important data to emphasize that masking helps prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

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