Mask Mandates Return in U.S. Hospitals as Flu and COVID-19 Spike

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.04 - 2024 1:30 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Mask Mandates Return in Hospitals as Flu and COVID-19 Spike.

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As the post-holiday period unfolds, hospitals nationwide are witnessing a spike in illnesses. This has prompted more facilities to mandate masks and restrict visitor access. Despite expert opinions suggesting that this season may not be as deadly as previous ones, the threat of significant hospitalizations and fatalities remains a concern.

New York City has been proactive, enforcing a mask mandate across its 11 public hospitals. Similar actions were taken in Los Angeles and Massachusetts, with some hospitals having reintroduced masking rules for employees much earlier, in anticipation of the seasonal influx of patients.

According to Huffington Post, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "What we’re seeing right now, in the first week of January, is really an acceleration — of flu cases, in particular."

This trend is consistent with reports of escalating flu and COVID-19 infections in the weeks leading up to Christmas, affecting 31 states.

Less Likely To Cause Severe Outcomes

There is, however, a silver lining. Cohen anticipates that the peak of flu and COVID-19 cases may occur by the end of January, followed by a decline. The current flu strain, though widespread, is less likely to cause severe outcomes compared to others. This is bolstered by the effectiveness of current flu vaccines against this strain.

Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University classifies the current season as "moderately severe," suggesting that while serious, it might not be overwhelming. He emphasizes the importance of vaccinations and treatments for flu and COVID-19, noting a concerning decrease in vaccination rates this year. By late December, only about 44% of U.S. adults had received flu shots, and roughly 19% had received updated COVID-19 vaccinations.

Two New Symptoms Reported

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, in addition to the common symptoms of Covid such as runny noses, coughs, headaches, and weakness, individuals infected with the JN.1 strain have also reported experiencing trouble sleeping and anxiety.

These new symptoms mark a shift in the clinical presentation of the virus.

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