COVID-19 Update: Wearing a Mask Can Reduce Transmission by up to 50%
There is consensus among public health organizations that wearing a face mask in public can drastically reduce the spread of COVID-19, and many states and counties across the U.S. are now requiring their citizens to wear one. With this in mind, facility managers should stay up to date on local face covering ordinances to keep their staff and building occupants in compliance and more importantly, safe and healthy.
Last week, experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said high levels of mask-wearing could reduce forecasted deaths from COVID-19 by nearly 33,000.
In its first projections comparing different actions to control the transmission of the disease, IHME is forecasting nearly 180,000 in the United States will die by October 1.
The forecast shows 179,106 deaths (with a range of 159,497 to 213,715). Those numbers drop to 146,047 (with a range of 140,849 to 153,438), if at least 95% of people wear masks in public.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray in a press announcement. “People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
The new U.S. forecast is lower than the IHME forecast of 201,129 deaths released on June 15.
CDC Now Recommends Cloth Face Coverings
Changing course in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have mandates on wearing cloth face masks in public, CNN reports. Outside the U.S., countries including Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria have had mask requirements nationwide.
CDC notes on their “About Cloth Face Covers” web page, updated June 28, that the cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or respirators, which are critical supplies that should be reserved for health care workers and other first responders. “Cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment (PPE). They are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (like N95 respirators) or medical face masks (like surgical masks) in workplaces where respirators or facemasks are recommended or required to protect the wearer.”
If necessary to use PPE, be sure to provide it to your staff workers in accordance with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
Also, be sure to check your state and municipal websites for local face mask ordinances that would apply to you, your workers, and your building occupants.
Cintas Is Looking for America’s Best Restroom
Cintas Corp. is now accepting nominations for its 19th annual America’s Best Restroom® Contest, designed to showcase publicly accessible restrooms that place hygiene and style at the top of their priority list and to recognize the parallel between clean restrooms and customer retention.
The public can nominate their favorite restroom now through August 14 at www.bestrestroom.com.
Nominations will be judged on five criteria: cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality, and unique design elements. Ten finalists will be announced in September, and the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite finalist. The winner will receive a Cintas UltraClean® restroom cleaning service and $2,500 in facility services or restroom cleaning from Cintas while also being recognized as a first-rate public restroom.
The Nashville Zoo was named America’s Best Restroom in 2019.
Hygiene Culture More Effective Than Handwashing Monitoring Systems
Study finds handwashing compliance drops off after a year without strong and consistent messaging
Hand hygiene among health care staff, including environmental services (EVS) workers, has always been crucial in preventing the spread of pathogens. In the era of COVID-19 handwashing has become even more vital, yet facilities still struggle with compliance. Many have installed electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems (EHHMS) that keep track of whether employees are washing their hands. These systems range from simple technology such as soap dispensers that record each time they are activated, to complex measures, such as badges or wristbands that sense if a worker has used proper hand hygiene when entering a patient area.
However, a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found these monitoring systems are inefficient in bringing about long-term handwashing compliance by themselves without being part of a strong handwashing culture.
Investigators with Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, conducted surveys and interviews at 56 acute care hospitals in New York state to evaluate the impact EHHMS had on Clostridium difficile infection rates. Only two of the 56 hospitals had installed the systems and only one of those hospitals shared their experience. The others cited the initial investment of money and staff resources as challenges in obtaining an EHHMS.
The hospital with the EHHMS had vastly improved handwashing data collection and was effective at improving hand hygiene compliance rates in the short term. But factors such as employee turnover quickly undid any progress the facility had made in handwashing compliance, with the data revealing a sharp decline after 12 months.
Investigators found that consistent and constant messaging about the importance of hand hygiene as well as staff empowerment were key drivers in long-term handwashing compliance.
Consider following these five tips to help instill a strong handwashing culture in your facility.