Two hairstylists with COVID-19 saw 139 clients. Here’s why no one caught the virus.
Two hairstylists in Missouri worked for days with symptoms of COVID-19, seeing a total of 139 clients — none of whom seems to have caught the virus.
This is because everyone in the shop wore masks, according to a new case report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The two stylists and their customers all followed salon policy and the local City of Springfield ordinance recommending the use of masks during haircuts, the CDC wrote. The study authors suspect that the second stylist caught the coronavirus from the first, but no other staff in the shop were infected.
The stylists worked for eight days from the time the first stylist developed symptoms to the time their test results came back — something that health officials say you definitely shouldn’t do — but after health officials tracked down all the customers and monitored or tested them, no one seemed to have caught the virus.
“It just demonstrates what we already know: that masks are very helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.
To him, the key element is that the hairdressers were wearing masks — not so much that their customers were. Cloth masks are recommended to help prevent someone who is infected from passing the virus to others, but the evidence that they also protect the wearer is weaker, the CDC says.
Still, having everyone wear a mask in this kind of setting helps prevent infected customers from passing the virus to other customers or staff if the situation is reversed, he said.
Wearing masks indoors is generally a good idea, he said. Many Canadian municipalities have mandated mask-wearing in indoor public settings.
“Sometimes because the symptoms are mild or occasionally non-existent, people will be out and about and walking around and interacting with those around them, even though they’re infected,” he said. “You just might have mild symptoms or no symptoms. So the mask is very helpful in those settings.”
When you go for a hair appointment, Bogoch said, it’s worth noting that you’re in a closed indoor environment with other people for a prolonged period and that physical distancing from your stylist isn’t really possible. So wearing a mask is important.
“It really just hammers home the point that we should really be wearing masks in indoor settings, especially when we can’t practise physical distancing to really help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s as simple as that.”