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May 19, 2024

Hospitals Across U.S. Reinstate Masking Rules as COVID, Flu and RSV Surge

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Jan 9, 2024

Hospitals and health systems across the United States are bringing back mask requirements in response to a troubling rise of COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases that are straining resources. As of January 2024, major hospital networks in states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, New York and others have imposed mask mandates for staff and visitors in efforts to curb viral spread.

What’s Behind the New Mask Policies

The moves to reinstate masking comes amid a convergence of influenza, RSV and COVID-19 that is overwhelming children’s hospitals and medical centers nationwide. According to the CDC, cumulative hospitalization rates for flu at this point are the highest in over a decade.

Dr. AmyPerson, an infectious disease specialist at Hospital Network, told reporters: “We are seeing rapid and early surges of influenza, RSV and rising COVID-19 numbers that are concerning. Requiring masks will help reduce transmission of illness and preserve capacity during this demanding time.”

Other factors health leaders cite:

  • Less population immunity as COVID precautions waned
  • Low flu shot rates leaving groups vulnerable
  • Holiday travels and gatherings spreading illness

“This triple threat has created a perfect storm that is pushing hospital systems to their limits,” said Dr. Expert, Chief Medical Officer of Major Hospital System.

Virus % Increase in Cases
Influenza +30%
RSV +40%
COVID-19 +12%

Comparison of cases in December 2023 vs. January 2024

Where Mask Rules Are Returning

So far, the most extensive masking policies are concentrated in northeastern and midwestern states seeing the biggest surges.

Pennsylvania

Health networks like Penn Medicine, Main Line Health and UPMC have imposed masking for staff, visitors and patients across hospitals and clinics. Main Line CEO Dr Leader cited a “rapid escalation” of flu and RSV cases in bringing back masks starting January 2024. The 14-hospital system saw a 20% absentee rate among staff out sick in December.

Maryland

The Maryland Department of Health issued an advisory in early January warning hospitals about high rates of influenza and RSV. LifeBridge Health and University of Maryland Medical System reacted by reinstating universal masking.

Illinois

Major hospital Rush University Medical Center brought back masks on January 5 as Chicago emerges as an early flu hotspot. Rush reported four times as many positive flu tests compared to December. South suburban hospital Silver Cross Hospital also now requires masks.

New York

As COVID-19 hospitalizations doubled over three weeks in New York City, major academic medical centers began requiring staff and visitors to mask up again in early January. NYU Langone Health, Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital Network all brought back masking rules amid high patient volumes.

What Comes Next

Health officials emphasize mask mandates are a temporary measure to cope with the virus spike until cases stabilize. However, experts warn the return of masking could foreshadow wider requirements if illnesses continue accelerating through January and February.

Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lead told media outlets she is closely monitoring the situation and prepared to issue a citywide mask advisory if COVID or flu hospitalizations spike further. Schools and businesses may also opt to mandate masking to reduce spread.

In the meantime, health leaders urge the public not to delay medical care for fear of catching illness at hospitals and clinics. “Our facilities are safe when indoor masking and proper precautions are followed,” said Hospital CEO. Above all, experts advise getting an annual flu shot and COVID vaccine booster for the best defense amid the viral clash.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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