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Hairstylists with COVID-19 didn't infect any of their 140 clients. Face masks may be why.

woman giving haircut
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Two hair stylists in Missouri interacted with a total of 140 clients and six coworkers before learning they both had COVID-19 — thankfully, the stylists didn't pass the virus on to any of these contacts, according to a statement from the local health department

The stylists work at a Great Clips salon in Springfield, where various safety measures were put in place to mitigate potential COVID-19 spread, according to the statement from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. Appointment times had been staggered to limit potential contamination between customers, and the salon chairs were placed farther apart than usual. Stylists also remained 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from clients when not cutting their hair, and the salon required that both stylists and customers wear masks during appointments, according to Great Clips customer and journalist Steve Pokin, who wrote about his experience visiting the salon in mid-May. 

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"I didn't think you could cut the hair of someone wearing a mask," he wrote in The Springfield News-Leader. "The stylist had me briefly hold my mask in place as she removed the straps and trimmed one side of my head and then the other. It's not that hard." 

After learning that two stylists at the salon had tested positive for COVID-19, Pokin got tested for the infection. He had not been contacted directly by the health department, since the stylist who cut his hair was not infected. The health department offered free diagnostic tests for the 140 other clients who had seen the infected stylists as well as the six potentially exposed Great Clips employees. Together, 46 people actually underwent diagnostic testing, but all "potentially exposed were quarantined for the duration of their exposure period," the health department noted.

Pokin received a test at a drive-through testing site, which he described as "like a drive-thru with only one menu option — a 6-inch swab up your nose and down into your throat." His test came back negative, as did the tests of the 46 other people. The incubation period for the virus has now passed, meaning that those exposed would have likely developed symptoms by now, if infected. Based on that evidence, the health department concluded that no client or coworker contracted the virus from either infected stylist. 

"This is exciting news about the value of masking to prevent COVID-19," Clay Goddard, director of the health department, said in the statement. 

"We are studying more closely the details of these exposures, including what types of face coverings were worn and what other precautions were taken to lead to this encouraging result," Goddard said. "We never want an exposure like this to happen, but this situation will greatly expand our understanding of how this novel coronavirus spreads."

Originally published on Live Science.

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