It seems not. At least not according to the New England Journal of Medecine. We’ve summarised their recent article as follows:
As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to explode, hospital systems are scrambling to intensify their measures for protecting patients and health care workers from the virus. An increasing number of frontline providers are wondering whether this effort should include universal use of masks by all health care workers. Universal masking is already standard practice in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other parts of Asia and has recently been adopted by a handful of U.S. hospitals.
A mask alone in this setting will reduce risk only slightly, however, since it does not provide protection from droplets that may enter the eyes or from fomites on the patient or in the environment that providers may pick up on their hands and carry to their mucous membranes .
More compelling is the possibility that wearing a mask may reduce the likelihood of transmission from asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic health care workers with Covid-19 to other providers and patients. This concern increases as Covid-19 becomes more widespread in the community. We face a constant risk that a health care worker with early infection may bring the virus into our facilities and transmit it to others. Such measures include vigorous screening of all patients coming to a facility for symptoms of Covid-19 and immediately getting them masked and into a room; early implementation of contact and droplet precautions, including eye protection, for all symptomatic patients and erring on the side of caution when in doubt; rescreening all admitted patients daily for signs and symptoms of Covid-19 in case an infection was incubating on admission or they were exposed to the virus in the hospital; having a low threshold for testing patients with even mild symptoms potentially attributable to a viral respiratory infection ; requiring employees to attest that they have no symptoms before starting work each day; being attentive to physical distancing between staff members in all settings ; restricting and screening visitors; and increasing the frequency and reliability of hand hygiene.
The extent of marginal benefit of universal masking over and above these foundational measures is debatable.
Is our opening statement fair? We don’t want to make false statements but we believe the statement to be accurate. Let us know in the comments.