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May 29, 2024

LA County Brings Back Mask Mandate For All Healthcare Facilities Amid Winter Virus Surge

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Jan 1, 2024

Los Angeles County health officials announced this week the reinstatement of a mask mandate applying to all staff and visitors at healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. The mandate comes as the county and much of the nation grapples with a triple threat of respiratory illnesses – COVID-19, RSV, and influenza.

Masking Rule Takes Effect Immediately

The masking requirement, which takes effect immediately, aims to curb virus transmission and protect vulnerable populations as cases climb heading into the winter season. LA County Public Health Director Dr. Ferrer said in a statement:

“With high rates of transmission, healthcare settings are high-risk environments where masking and vaccination are essential layers of protection for vulnerable patients and workers.”

All healthcare facility staff, patients, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must mask in all indoor settings. Facilities failing to enforce the rule risk citations and fines.

Triggers Behind Decision To Restore Mitigation Measures

Several key developments triggered health officials’ decision to reinstate masking:

  • Rising COVID-19 rates – While COVID cases and hospitalizations remain relatively low compared to previous surges, the county has seen increased community transmission, with a current 7-day daily average case rate of 11.7 per 100,000 residents, up from 5 per 100,000 in early November.

  • Increased flu activity – Flu is spreading earlier than usual this season in LA, with 3 flu-associated deaths reported so far and elevated hospital admission rates.

  • Ongoing RSV surge – Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to strain hospitals, with LA facilities reporting a 300% increase in RSV hospitalizations over the past 3 weeks compared to the same period last year.

  • Holiday travel – Health officials brace for a spike in cases following holiday gatherings and travel.

Key Metric Current Level Change From Prior Month
Daily Average COVID Cases 11.7 per 100K +134%
Flu Hospital Admissions 5.2 per 100K +68%
RSV Hospitalizations 298% of prior year +40%

With multiple respiratory viruses circulating simultaneously, LA hospitals risk exceeding capacity this winter. Masking seeks to relieve this pressure.

California and Other States Also Renewing Mandates

LA County joins other regions reimplementing healthcare facility masking rules amid rising winter virus activity, including:

  • Illinois health officials issued a statewide advisory urging universal masking in healthcare settings located in areas with elevated community COVID and flu levels
  • New York State ordered all hospitals and nursing homes to ensure staff wear masks when interacting with patients and others or risk fines
  • Several major Massachusetts hospital networks, including Mass General Brigham and Baystate Health, now require universal masking for all staff

Many health systems cite steadying COVID hospital rates after an early December peak as proof that bringing back masks can control spread. For example, following its December 15 mask mandate announcement, Massachusetts witnessed a nearly 10% decline in COVID-related hospitalizations statewide over the next two weeks.

What Happens Next? Community Masking May Follow

If the current surge continues gaining momentum into January, broader masking requirements for the public could return according to LA County Public Health Communications Director Dr. Hoffman:

???We are closely tracking the data and should trends continue on their current trajectory, the health department will reassess the need for expanded community masking requirements. Our priority is avoiding crisis-level care this winter.???

For now, health officials emphasize that getting vaccinated and boosted remains the best way for residents to protect themselves this holiday season.

Conclusion

LA County’s masking measure aims to slow virus transmission amid a confluence of winter respiratory threats stressing the local healthcare system. With COVID, flu, and RSV cases all elevated as 2023 begins, the mandate offers a proactive attempt to relieve hospital strain before admissions overload capacity. Other regions confront similar challenges, with states like Illinois and New York also responding through renewed healthcare masking policies. LA’s decision comes as the first step toward broader mitigation this winter if trends continue – but for now, the rule only applies to high-risk healthcare settings.

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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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