U.S. hospitals reinstate mask mandates amid surge in COVID and flu cases

Mandatory masks have been reinforced in the US due to the rise in cases of COVID, seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses.

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FILE PHOTO: Dr. Syed Naqvi, a pulmonologist, dons an N95 mask before entering the ICU at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S., January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

At least 4 states in the US including, New York, California, Illinois and Massachusetts have made the use of masks compulsory for patients and care providers. 

With the aim of preventing staffing shortages with concerns related to the impact of the omicron wave in 2022 that affected the frontline health workers with COVID, the health commissioner in New York, Dr. Ashwin Vasan has announced the resumption of mask mandates in 11 public hospitals, 30 health centers, and five long-term care facilities.

Speaking to WAB TV on Wednesday, Dr. Vasan said, “What we don’t want is staffing shortages, right? When we saw the omicron wave in 2022, the biggest issues were not only people getting sick, but that we had a lot of frontline health workers, they were out with COVID,”

Chicago’s Rush University Medical System on Tuesday reinstated the mask rules and require, “patients, visitors and staff to wear hospital-approved masks in some areas of the campus. They include clinical waiting areas and patient registration.”

After the Illinois Department of Public Health said everyone should take stronger safety measures to protect from infection, Cook County Health and Endeavor Health in Chicago’s nearby areas reinforced the wearing of masks from last month. 

According to a statement provided to the city news service, Berkshire Health Systems in Massachusetts made face masks a must on Wednesday to curb the spread of respiratory diseases while Los Angeles County on Saturday reinstated wearing of masks at all healthcare places in California.

Current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show over 29,000 COVID cases in the U.S. between December 17 to 23. This is a jump of more than 16% from the week before last. In the same time, more than 14,700 people were hospitalized for flu-related issues.

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