Get Informed, Stay Inspired

An increasing number of hospitals in the US are now mandating the use of masks due to a rise in cases of both influenza and COVID-19.
Science & Health

An increasing number of hospitals in the US are now mandating the use of masks due to a rise in cases of both influenza and COVID-19.

Several hospitals in the United States are now mandating the use of masks and restricting visitors in response to anticipated, yet severe, increases in cases of influenza, COVID-19, and other illnesses following the holiday season.

Although some professionals predict that this current season will not be as fatal as previous winters, it could still result in numerous hospitalizations and fatalities throughout the nation.

Last week, New York City implemented a requirement for masks to be worn at its 11 public hospitals. This was also enforced at select hospitals in Los Angeles and Massachusetts. Several hospitals had already implemented mask policies for staff several months ago in preparation for an anticipated influx of ill individuals during the season.

The number of Flu and COVID-19 cases has been on the rise for several weeks, with 31 states reporting high rates of flu-like symptoms just before Christmas. The latest national data will be released on Friday, but experts anticipate that infections will continue to increase in many states throughout January.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that there is currently a notable increase in flu cases during the first week of January.

According to Cohen, there is a positive update. The number of Flu and COVID-19 cases may reach its peak by the end of this month and then decrease. While the flu has been rapidly increasing, the cases this year are due to a strain that typically does not result in as many fatalities and hospitalizations as other variations. Additionally, indications indicate that the current flu vaccines are well-suited to combat this strain.

According to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, the current season is considered to be “moderately severe” and not likely to be overwhelming.

Taikwan Wright waits outside while his nephew is treated for asthma in the ICU in Bellevue Hospital in New York on Jan. 3, 2024.

On January 3, 2024, Taikwan Wright stands outside Bellevue Hospital in New York City as his nephew receives treatment for asthma in the ICU.

The CDC is directing individuals to a website run by the agency where they can search for their county. This can assist in determining whether it is necessary to wear masks or take additional precautions. Cohen emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated and seeking medical care for both influenza and COVID-19.

According to the latest data from the CDC’s vaccination survey, officials report a decrease in the number of vaccinations administered this year. As of December 23, approximately 44% of American adults had received flu shots while only 19% had received updated COVID-19 shots by early December.

The number of COVID-19 infections is resulting in more serious illness compared to the flu, however, the increase has not been as significant. Authorities are closely monitoring the mutation of the coronavirus known as JN.1. The omicron strain was initially identified in the United States in September and by Christmas, it was responsible for approximately 44% of all COVID-19 cases.

According to health officials, the JN.1 variant may have a higher transmission rate and ability to escape our immune systems, but there is currently no proof that it leads to more serious illness compared to other recent variants. Current evidence suggests that vaccines and antiviral drugs are effective against it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced unsatisfactory rates of vaccination for the seasonal respiratory illness known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While RSV typically causes mild cold symptoms, it can pose a serious threat to young children and elderly individuals. However, recent data shows that RSV cases have reached a plateau and are decreasing in certain areas after an increase in the fall.

In late December, there was a 65% rise in respiratory illness cases at Hillsdale Hospital in southern Michigan. As a result, limitations were put in place for visitors at the birthing center. Only spouses, support persons, and grandparents are allowed to visit, and they must all wear masks and be free of any symptoms of illness.

Dr. Nichole Ellis, the pediatrician and medical chief of staff at the hospital, explained that it is a regular restriction during this time of year. However, she noted that it is proving to be more challenging this season.

According to Ellis, in the past, we focused on monitoring or tracking one disease at a time. However, nowadays, infants and children often have multiple diseases concurrently. This is not limited to just RSV, as they may have RSV and COVID, or influenza and RSV, simultaneously, as all of these illnesses are widespread in our community.