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Sunday, May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024
Sunday May 19, 2024

Mask mandates reinstated as flu, COVID, and RSV cases surge in ‘tripledemic’ crisis

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The resurgence of a triple threat from Covid, flu, and RSV in America has prompted hospitals nationwide to reinstate face mask requirements.

Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a notable surge in respiratory virus cases and hospital admissions. Flu-related hospitalizations shot up by 48 percent in the week concluding on December 23, marking an increase of nearly 90 percent compared to the same period in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Concurrently, Covid-related hospitalizations experienced a 17 percent spike within a week. Even respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), previously believed to have peaked, is resurging. Some states’ children’s hospitals are particularly strained, with medical experts describing this winter virus season as the most severe they’ve witnessed.

These escalating figures, recorded prior to the holiday season’s potential impact, have prompted at least seven states to reintroduce mask mandates for hospital staff, patients, and visitors over the last month. Over 30 hospital systems across 16 states have already reinstated these precautionary measures.

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Mass General Brigham hospital in Massachusetts is among the latest to re-implement mask requirements due to the substantial illness rate from respiratory viruses among its units. As cases and hospitalizations have surged over recent weeks, experts anticipate further increases reflecting infections stemming from holiday gatherings.

Experts caution that as colder weather drives people indoors, facilitating easier transmission of respiratory diseases, January may witness a continued rise in cases.

To counter the spread of respiratory illnesses within healthcare settings, hospitals are revisiting face mask policies, despite inconclusive studies on their efficacy in preventing respiratory virus infections.

The latest flu data reported a significant increase in hospitalizations and test positivity rates. Approximately a dozen states currently report ‘very high’ respiratory activity levels, with seven states registering the highest levels as per CDC measurements.

Before the pandemic, hospitalizations and deaths related to flu and Covid were notably lower compared to the current virus season. For instance, flu-related hospitalizations have more than doubled, and deaths have increased substantially compared to figures from 2019.

Wastewater surveillance reflects a 15 percent increase in Covid cases within a week, emphasising the concerning surge in respiratory viruses. Dr. Peter Hotez, from Baylor College, notes the convergence of Covid, flu, RSV, and complicating factors like pneumococcal pneumonia as a quadruple threat in this winter wave.

Responding to the escalating cases, numerous healthcare systems across different states have reintroduced mask mandates for staff, patients, and visitors. Organisations such as Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Medical Center, and others in various regions have reinstated these measures.

Given the escalating numbers before the holiday season, health officials anticipate further spikes in January. Hospitals and health systems continue to implement stringent measures, emphasising the importance of mask-wearing to curb the spread of these respiratory viruses.

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