Wagswoofs – Indoor masking rules are being reinstated by some hospitals across the United States due to an increase in cases and hospitalizations of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza.
Masking guidelines have been implemented in hospitals across several states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin, as reported by ABC News.
Mass General Brigham, the largest health system in Massachusetts, recently implemented new guidelines mandating the use of masks for employee caregivers and those working in patient care areas, according to ABC News.
On December 18, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts reinstated its masking requirement as a result of increased rates of respiratory illnesses.
According to Cook County Health, a healthcare provider serving the Chicago area, they have implemented a new policy requiring masks for all individuals aged 2 and older. This policy applies to staff, patients, and visitors in waiting rooms and patient exam rooms. The implementation of this policy took place on December 26th, as stated on their website.
After the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County reached the “medium” threshold, which signifies between 10 and 19.9 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000, a mandatory order was issued by the Los Angeles County Public Health. This order mandates all health care personnel to wear masks while in contact with patients or when working in patient care areas.
Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an ABC News contributor, emphasized the importance of mask guidelines as hospitals are currently overwhelmed with patients and staff who are at risk of severe illness.
According to the expert, the healthcare facilities and hospitals are likely to encounter individuals who are vulnerable and at a higher risk of contracting the virus, especially those with pre-existing health conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to implement preventive measures in these settings to minimize the chances of transmission. This not only ensures the safety of the patients but also safeguards the healthcare workers providing care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), respiratory illness activity is currently at “high” or “very high” levels in 31 states and Washington, D.C. This activity is characterized by an increased number of people seeking medical attention for respiratory complaints like fever, sore throat, or cough at primary care offices and emergency departments.
According to the CDC, there were 29,059 new weekly hospital admissions due to COVID-19 during the week ending Dec. 23. This marks the seventh consecutive week of increases and represents the highest number reported since late January 2023.
According to data from the CDC, there were 14,732 new hospital admissions associated with influenza for the week ending on December 23rd. This number is a significant increase from the previous week, which saw 9,930 admissions.
According to Brownstein, it is not surprising to see an increase in cases, considering that the U.S. is currently in the midst of respiratory virus season, coupled with recent holiday travel and gatherings.
According to the expert, although the current data doesn’t show anything out of the ordinary, it does indicate a rise in illness. He emphasizes that wearing masks can be beneficial in combating various respiratory pathogens, including RSV, COVID, flu, and others. He suggests that adopting a universal approach of wearing masks can be an effective strategy in this regard.
To prevent an overload on the healthcare system, Brownstein advises individuals to stay at home if they are feeling unwell and to seek medical attention if their symptoms worsen or fail to improve.
He emphasized the importance of minimizing the burden on hospitals and preserving care for those who require it the most. While acknowledging the widespread illness in the community, he stressed the need to prevent overwhelming hospitals. He encouraged individuals to seek emergency department services if necessary. However, he highlighted the current focus on hospital capacity, as healthcare facilities strive to provide adequate care for patients with severe illnesses caused by these pathogens while also managing routine healthcare needs.
Contributions to this report were made by ABC News’ Youri Benadjaoud, Dr. Chris Medrano, and Sony Salzman.