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Health

COVID mask mandates return to hospitals in five states

Hospitals across the United States are reinstating mandatory masks for COVID-19, as the JN.1 variant becomes the dominant strain spreading across the country.

Hospitals in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Washington DC have all reinstated controversial rules, meaning masks are required for some people in medical settings. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recorded a 10.4 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations across America in the week leading up to December 16. There was a 3.4 percent increase in coronavirus-related deaths during the same period. News week contacted the CDC for comment via email.

Mask mandates have long been controversial since they were implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, which reached the United States in early 2020. Medical professionals and the CDC have consistently advocated for wearing a mask, including outside the doctor’s office or hospital. Currently, no state in the country has a mandatory mask policy for indoor and outdoor settings.

This week, Mass General Brigham, Massachusetts’ largest health system, said that starting Jan. 2, masks will be essential for health care workers working directly with patients in clinical care settings until that time. that respiratory illnesses fall below a certain percentage. Patients and visitors are also strongly encouraged to wear masks, which will be provided by the hospital, and staff in hallways and common areas are exempt.

General Brigham said his policy is determined by the percentage of patients with symptoms of respiratory illness presenting to emergency departments or outpatient clinics.

The mandatory masking rule is activated when this percentage exceeds 2.85 percent for two consecutive weeks and will be lifted once the rate falls below the same percentage for one week.

A medical worker poses for a portrait in front of NYU Langone Health hospital during the coronavirus pandemic on May 26, 2020 in New York. Mandatory masking is implemented at several hospitals in the United States
GETTY

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, also said it would require masks for patients and staff on December 18. The hospital added that this policy would be in effect for the foreseeable future.

The hospital said on its website: “We are monitoring a number of different data, including rates of flu-like illnesses, staff absenteeism, emergency department visits and hospitalizations caused by respiratory viruses. We will lift the obligation to wear a mask when these data remain. constantly lower.”

Staff at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. are currently required to wear masks at work, according to political site The Hill.

The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics also requires people to wear masks in its medical buildings, including University Hospital, American Family Children’s Hospital and East Madison Hospital.

In New York, NYC Health + Hospitals said a mask policy would now be in place at all of its facilities, adding on its website that “COVID-19 and other respiratory infections continue to pose a threat to all New Yorkers.

California hospitals are also requiring patients, workers and visitors to wear masks.

Yolo County officials said in a news release that due to “an increase in respiratory virus activity in the community,” individuals should consider wearing masks “in crowded indoor spaces.” Yolo County Public Health Officer Aimee Sisson said, “Our wastewater monitoring program is currently detecting elevated levels of COVID-19 and RSV. I recommend that all members of the community take steps to protect themselves from infection, including wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with others.

Marin County hospitals have had a mask mandate in place since November 1 of this year. In Santa Clara County, masks have been required since April 4, 2023. In San Francisco, masks are required in hospital settings for all workers in medical fields and in prisons.