Some of the nation’s top health experts are urging people to put their face masks back on months after most mask restrictions have ended and many people have stopped wearing them. However, this time, it’s not just because of Covid-19.
Health experts are advising people to take precautions to protect themselves as a triple danger of respiratory infections, including flu, RSV, and Covid-19 sweeps the country this holiday season: get vaccinated, routinely wash your hands, and in some cases, wear a mask.
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, said that “There’s been a lot of attention directed to patients at higher risk of the complications of all of these illnesses – older persons, people who have any underlying illness, anyone who has immune compromise – I think, during this surge of this tridemic if you will, there’s been a lot of ‘dust off your mask. Put your mask back on.”
Schaffner said, “At this phase in the Covid-19 pandemic, even with other types of respiratory viruses circulating, masking recommendations based on an individual’s risk has been at the center of public health discussions, “rather than saying everyone in a community has got to put their masks back on.”
“I don’t want to go to mandates because I think over much of the United States, you will get a lot of pushback, and people will ignore it. Public health recommendations have to be acceptable,” “The notion that during these kinds of viral surges, people at risk should be wearing masks and being more cautious seems entirely reasonable – and I add to that, particularly in this part of the country, that we should be accepting, tolerant and indeed supporting people who do that, because they have a reason,” he added.
As the wave of respiratory diseases continues, some towns throughout the nation are considering putting back specific masking suggestions.
Local officials are considering masks
Based on its Covid-19 community levels, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information on when masking is advised.
The organization states that although people can opt to use masks at any time, it is advised for everyone to wear a “high-quality mask or respirator” when a county has a “high” Covid-19 community rating.
On Thursday, there were high community levels in around 5.66% of US counties, including several areas in Arizona, Wyoming, Oregon, and the Dakotas.
Although Los Angeles County has a high Covid-19 community level, the three parameters that would need a mask mandate have not been met, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday.
The county has 14.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents and 258 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents, although its 6.9% occupancy rate of Covid patient beds remains below the “high” standard.
Ferrer said, “We haven’t reached that super dangerous threshold where CDC has said, ‘you really need to start worrying about your hospital system,’ but we’ve reached a threshold, and all of the data shows this, where there is too much transmission, and it’s creating a lot of risks. And the time to mitigate the risk is actually now.”
“We do urge individuals to use masks.”
The CDC’s Covid-19 community-level measurements for US counties are based on three things: new Covid-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and new Covid-19 cases. But the FDA is looking into revising these community levels, maybe to include data on other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV, Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
“It’s something that we are actively looking into at CDC. In the meantime, what I do want to say is, one need not wait for CDC action to put a mask on,” she said.