Months after most mask requirements ended and many people stopped wearing them, some of the country’s leading health experts are encouraging people to put their face masks back on – but this time it’s not It’s not just because of Covid-19.
As a triple threat of respiratory illnesses – influenza, RSV and Covid-19 – sweep the country this holiday season, health officials are urging people to take precautions to protect themselves: get vaccinated, wash their hands frequently and even hide under certain circumstances.
“There has been a lot of focus on the patients most at risk of complications from all of these diseases – the elderly, people with underlying disease, anyone who is immunocompromised – I think during this surge of this tridemic, if you Will, there’s been a lot of “dust on your mask”. Put your mask back on,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
At this phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, even with other types of respiratory viruses circulating, masking recommendations based on an individual’s risk have been at the center of public health discussions, “rather than saying that everyone in a community has to put on their mask back,” Schaffner said.
“I don’t want to go to warrants because I think in a lot of the United States you’ll get a lot of pushback and people will ignore it. Public health recommendations must be acceptable,” he added.
“The idea that during these types of virus outbreaks that people at risk should wear masks and be more careful seems entirely reasonable – and I add to that, especially in this part of the country, that we should accept , tolerate and indeed support people who do, because they have a reason,” said Schaffner, who is based in Nashville.
“Don’t take this as a political statement or a social statement. This is a purely health-related statement.
Some communities across the country are considering bringing back some masking recommendations as the wave of respiratory illnesses worsens.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers specific guidance on when masking is recommended based on its Covid-19 community levels.
The agency says people can choose to wear masks at any time, but a ‘high quality mask or respirator’ is recommended for everyone when a county has a ‘high’ community level of Covid-19 .
As of Thursday, about 5.66% of US counties had high community levels, including some places in Arizona, Wyoming, Oregon and the Dakotas.
Los Angeles County is at a high level of the Covid-19 community, but it has not met the three indicators that would trigger a mask mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.
The county has 258 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people and 14.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, but continues to remain below the “high” level of staffed Covid patient beds, at 6.9%, she said.
Officials will consider masks again if that level rises above 10%, Ferrer said, but she hopes measures could improve by then.
Even without a warrant, she emphasized community efforts like wearing masks indoors when possible and getting Covid-19 shots or boosters.
“We haven’t reached that super dangerous threshold where the CDC said ‘you really have to start worrying about your hospital system,’ but we have reached a threshold, and all the data shows it, where there’s too much of transmission, and that creates a lot of risk. And the time to mitigate the risk is actually now,” Ferrer said.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County has been at the forefront of implementing mitigation measures. In this case, officials would follow CDC guidelines regarding masking and community levels.
“What LA County is doing is they are looking at their increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and they are seeing an upward trend towards this high level of community transmission, and they are preparing to reapply the guidelines that accompany high community transmission, and that’s to reimplement universal masking,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Each community has looked at the same advice, wondering if they’re approaching high levels and might need to consider universal masking again, Freeman said.
“Now I say all of this based on the pure facts of the guidance, but I think this again has the potential to turn into a community-by-community political divide where elected officials and others may or may not wish to see the universal masking. reimplemented. But we’ll have to see if that legal divide reappears,” she said. “There’s not a lot of appetite for some of those original mitigation efforts to be reimplemented.”
In New York, state officials have encouraged schools and communities to take precautions such as public masking indoors as RSV, Covid-19 and influenza circulate, according to a letter from the commissioner. Health, Dr. Mary Bassett, and Education Commissioner, Betty Rosa.
The letter, released on Monday, warned of multiple respiratory viruses that are straining health facilities across the state.
Over the past three weeks, flu hospitalizations in New York City have more than doubled and lab-confirmed flu cases have nearly tripled, according to the letter.
“In response, we are calling for a community-wide approach, including schools, to take precautions again this holiday season and winter that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and protect young children, people elderly and those with underlying health conditions,” the commissioners wrote.
The letter said schools and communities should encourage indoor public masking, vaccinations and frequent hand washing, among other measures.
“We encourage schools to use their local health departments as a partner and resource in this work,” the commissioners said. “Together, we will ensure that all students in our state have a healthy and safe holiday season.”
The CDC’s Covid-19 community-level metrics for US counties are based on three things: new Covid-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and new Covid-19 cases. But the agency plans to revise those community levels, possibly to include data on other respiratory viruses such as influenza and RSV, director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
“This is something we are actively looking at at the CDC. In the meantime, what I’m saying is that you don’t have to wait for CDC action to put on a mask,” he said. she declared.
“We know that 5% of the population lives in places where the community level of Covid-19 is high. We encourage people to wear masks,” she said, adding that people should stay home when sick, practice good hygiene like washing hands frequently and improve air ventilation in interior spaces.
Covid-19 hospitalizations begin to rise after Thanksgiving: More than 34,000 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 last week, up 20% from the previous week, according to the CDC. The CDC’s ensemble forecast calls for a continued increase over the next month or so.
About 1,800 Covid-19 deaths were reported to the CDC in the last week of November, and the ensemble forecast that predicts Covid deaths will remain flat for the next month or so.
Dr Anthony Fauci, who is leaving his post as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases this month, said he was not afraid to recommend a return to masking in certain circumstances as the country faces a triple threat of Covid-19, influenza and RSV.
“I’m not talking about imposing anything,” Fauci said Wednesday on “NBC Nightly News.” “I’m just talking about the common sense of saying, ‘You know, I really don’t want to risk getting infected and, even more so, passing it on to someone who is a vulnerable member of my family. ”
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