Mask mandate returns to some U.S. hospitals as COVID, Flu cases increase

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By Carina

Hospitals in New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts are reenacting mask mandates as the nation grapples with a surge in COVID cases, seasonal flu, and other respiratory illnesses. 

This strategic move aims to safeguard patients and healthcare providers amidst mounting concerns about staffing shortages and increasing hospitalizations.

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New York City takes proactive measures in tackling health crisis

New York City has taken a proactive stance in response to the escalating health crisis. 

Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the Health Commissioner, emphasized the importance of avoiding staffing shortages, recalling challenges faced during the omicron wave in 2022. 

“What we don’t want is staffing shortages, right? When we saw the omicron wave in 2022, the biggest issues were not only people getting sick, but that we had a lot of frontline health workers they were out with COVID,” explained Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

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Data reveals notable rise in COVID hospitalizations 

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a significant rise in COVID-related hospitalizations across the U.S. 

The weekly data from Dec. 17-23 recorded over 29,000 hospitalizations, marking an increase of more than 16% from the previous week. 

Additionally, the CDC reported over 14,700 flu-related hospitalizations during the same period.

Supreme Court strikes down Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies

Mask mandates have been contentious issues throughout the COVID pandemic, becoming political and cultural flashpoints. 

The Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives, struck down President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine-or-test mandate for companies, adding to the complexity of public health measures.

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Lingering tensions and public health impact

While some individuals opposed mask mandates, believing they were ineffective, others who adhered to medical advice felt their health was jeopardized by those who chose not to wear masks. 

The tensions surrounding these mandates reflect the broader challenges faced in navigating public health policies.

More than 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID-19, CDC figures show a greater rate than most other wealthy countries.

Chicago and Massachusetts initiate mandatory mask-wearing 

Healthcare systems in Chicago, such as Rush University Medical System and Cook County Health, have implemented mandatory masking in specific areas of their campuses. 

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In Massachusetts, Berkshire Health Systems initiated mandatory masking measures on Wednesday to enhance safety.

Los Angeles County reinstitutes masking

Los Angeles County, responding to the escalating situation, reinstated masking at all licensed healthcare facilities. 

The move aligns with a broader effort to address the surge in cases and ensure the protection of healthcare professionals and the public.

As the situation evolves, these renewed mask mandates underscore the ongoing challenges in managing public health measures, balancing individual freedoms with collective well-being in the face of a persistent health crisis.

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