Universal masking to control healthcare-associated transmission of severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Eliza R. Thompson, Faith S. Williams, Pat A. Giacin, Shay Drummond, Eric Brown, Meredith Nalick, Qian Wang, Jay R. McDonald, Abigail L. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess extent of a healthcare-associated outbreak of severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and to evaluate the effectiveness of infection control measures, including universal masking. Design: Outbreak investigation including 4 large-scale point-prevalence surveys. Setting: Integrated VA healthcare system with 2 facilities and 330 beds. Participants: Index patient and 250 exposed patients and staff. Methods: We identified exposed patients and staff and classified them as probable and confirmed cases based on symptoms and testing. We performed a field investigation and an assessment of patient and staff interactions to develop probable transmission routes. Infection prevention interventions included droplet and contact precautions, employee quarantine, and universal masking with medical and cloth face masks. We conducted 4 point-prevalence surveys of patient and staff subsets using real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for SARS-CoV-2. Results: Among 250 potentially exposed patients and staff, 14 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were identified. Patient roommates and staff with prolonged patient contact were most likely to be infected. The last potential date of transmission from staff to patient was day 22, the day universal masking was implemented. Subsequent point-prevalence surveys in 126 patients and 234 staff identified 0 patient cases and 5 staff cases of COVID-19, without evidence of healthcare-associated transmission. Conclusions: Universal masking with medical face masks was effective in preventing further spread of SARS-CoV-2 in our facility in conjunction with other traditional infection prevention measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-350
Number of pages7
JournalInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 29 2022


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