Since this past spring, Sycamore Services has required our staff to wear face masks while providing services to program participants. All participants are also required to wear face masks while receiving services in our facilities. We wanted to share a study that confirms the benefits and importance of wearing a face mask to protect ourselves and each other and slow the spread of COVID-19.

DETROIT – Wearing a mask protects people from contracting the novel coronavirus, according to a new study by the Beaumont Research Institute, which was published earlier this month in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases. 

The study showed that of the 20,614 Beaumont health care workers who took part in the research, 1,818 – or 8.8% – had developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies on serology blood tests. 

That means 91.2% did not contract the virus despite working in health care-related jobs through the first COVID-19 surge in Michigan, when more than 1,200 COVID-19 inpatients were admitted in the health system’s eight hospitals. 

Among those who reported known direct exposure to a COVID-19-positive person, those wearing an N95 mask had a significantly lower rate of developing antibodies (10.2%) compared with workers who wore surgical masks or other masks (13.1%) or no mask at all (17.5%). And for those who did wear masks, but still got infected with the virus, nearly 30% were asymptomatic. Of the workers who contracted the virus while wearing N95 masks, 40% were asymptomatic. The blood tests were conducted April 13-May 28. 

“It’s nice to have proof masking really works,” said Dr. Matthew Sims, director of Infectious Diseases Research at Beaumont Health and lead author of the research paper. “Masks play a vital role in protecting people and can dramatically reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.” 

While it’s clear from the research that masks are protective and reduce the risk of infection, Sims said a health care worker’s job duties also played a role. 

“People with higher levels of exposure were more likely to get it,” he said. 

Workers in three types of jobs were most likely to be infected: nurses, phlebotomists and respiratory therapists. 

“The more time a person spends in close contact with an infected individual,the higher the risk of that person contracting the virus themselves,” Sims said. “For example, doctors displayed a relatively low incidence of infection most likely due in large part to the fact that while they were working with patients, the duration of their direct contact with patients was limited.” 

It adds to growing evidence that wearing a mask is among the most effective things people can do to stop the spread of the virus, which is thought to spread primarily when respiratory droplets from an infected person are inhaled by another person. 

There also is evidence the virus also can spread by airborne transmission through tiny, aerosolized droplets that hang in the air. In some conditions, people can contract the novel coronavirus even if they’re more than 6 feet away from an infected person or after an infected person has left the room, according to updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Research has shown putting a barrier over the mouth and nose of everyone, infected or not, can offer protection. However, how much protection a mask offers depends on what type of mask is being worn, as well as othervariables.