Health officials and experts are renewing calls for masking as respiratory illnesses rise and Americans prepare for the holidays.
RSV infections in children appear to be peaking nationwide after overwhelming children’s hospitals for weeks, but they remain abnormally high. Influenza-like illnesses also remain extremely high at this time of year, with influenza-like illnesses accounting for more than 1 in 13 doctor visits and hospitalizations continuing to rise. Transmission of respiratory infections is high or very high in 42 states.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, meanwhile, are on the rise, signaling the potential start of a much-dreaded winter surge. According to tracking data by The New York Times, cases have risen 56% over the past two weeks and hospitalizations, which typically lag the rise in cases, have risen 28%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 9% of US counties have high community levels of COVID-19, which are based on case counts and hospital capacity. An additional 35% of US counties would have average community levels.
The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 2 wear a high-quality mask in public and indoor places when community levels are high, and vulnerable people should also wear masks when levels are medium. Additionally, the CDC still recommends that people wear masks when using public transportation, including planes, buses, trains, and subways.
With infections soaring, local health officials are also encouraging residents to get their masks out again. In Washington state, for example, 12 county health officers and 25 health executives issued recommendations for state residents to wear masks indoors.
“Communities across our state and across the United States are experiencing an unprecedented increase in viral respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19,” the group wrote in a statement. working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend everyone wear a high-quality, properly fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquisition and spread of these infections to others.
Similarly, Los Angeles County health officials have also urged mask-wearing as the region’s COVID-19 community level rises to “high.”
“Our common goal during this pandemic has always been to reduce the burden of illness, hospitalizations and deaths, and we all know it takes a community to do that,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Health, said Friday. Los Angeles County Public Health. . “When you put your mask on for those few weeks during this wave, it’s about the people of LA County. It’s about every individual, every visitor, our health care workers, essential workers and other people who Besides vaccination, this is one of the easiest things anyone can do right now.
Across the country, New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan issued a notice on Friday asking city residents to: “Wear a mask at all times in any indoor public place, including outside. inside stores, offices, lobbies, hallways, elevators, public transportation, schools, daycare centers and other shared public spaces, and in a crowded outdoor environment.”
Health officials aren’t the only ones calling for more masks; specialists and doctors also ask for face coverings. Former American Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently tweeted a photo of himself in mask at an airport, writing: ‘Vaccinated, wearing my mask and using lots of hand sanitizer on the trip. Covid aside, I don’t want to get the flu or RSV (or any another virus circulating) before Christmas!”
Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted that Americans also don’t need to wait for health officials to recommend or even require mask-wearing to protect themselves. “You don’t have to wait for CDC action to put on a mask,” she said. She also said the agency is “actively exploring” including transmission rates of all respiratory illnesses — not just COVID-19 — in its community-level categories, which determine when people should mask up. If the agency makes such a change soon, it could mean masking recommendations could abruptly go into effect for the vast majority of the United States.
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