April 21, 2024
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Return of the mask: COVID-19 spikes prompt restart of US mandates

Washington Examiner | by  Gabrielle M. Etzel | August 24, 2023

Article Takeaways by DP News Staff:

  • Mask Mandates Return:
    • Due to a fifth consecutive week of rising COVID-19 hospitalization rates, businesses and institutions, including major hospitals in San Francisco, New York, Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and Lionsgate Film Studios, are considering or have reinstated mask mandates.
  • Variants of Concern:
    • The CDC is closely monitoring three new COVID-19 variants, notably the highly mutated BA 2.86 variant, nicknamed Pirola.
  • High-Risk Individuals:
    • Experts advise senior citizens and those with chronic pre-existing conditions to take extra precautions, including wearing masks, especially given the increasing case counts.
  • Mask Efficacy:
    • Respirator masks, such as N95, are recommended over cloth masks, with the former proven to be more effective against small particles, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Vaccine Protection:
    • The FDA has indicated that the latest COVID-19 vaccines should protect against severe symptoms from the currently circulating virus variants.

COVID-19 hospitalization rates are increasing for the fifth week in a row, leading businesses to consider reinstating mask mandate policies heading into the fall and winter seasons.

One major hospital system in San Francisco and two in New York are reinstituting mask mandates for staff and patients due to rising case counts in their areas, as is Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Lionsgate Film Studios in Hollywood is also requiring masks for nearly half of its Santa Monica employees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring three new variants, including the highly mutated BA 2.86 variant, nicknamed Pirola.

Some public health experts are advising those with chronic pre-existing conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, as well as senior citizens to monitor case counts in their local areas and take extra precautions, including masking.

“Octogenarians comprise the highest-risk group for complications following COVID infection,” Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, told CNN.

“If you’re a caregiver for somebody who is at increased risk of complication following infection, then I think you should also consider putting a mask on in public places,” Reiner said.

As far as the type of mask, experts agree that respirator masks are preferred.

N95 and P100 respirator masks are the most effective against small particles and are recommended by both the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency to protect against toxic air pollution, such as that from wildfire smoke.

N95 respirator masks have been found to have 95% filtration efficacy for particles that are 0.1-0.3 microns in size. The size of the average SARS-CoV-2 particle is between 0.07 and 0.09 microns, significantly smaller than particulate matter air pollutants.

The EPA specifically states that cloth masks are ineffective against particles smaller than 0.3 microns.

The Food and Drug Administration previously told the Washington Examiner that, based on currently available data, the newest COVID-19 vaccinations will protect against the most serious symptoms of infection from currently circulating variants of the virus.

Source: Return of the mask: COVID-19 spikes prompt restart of US mandates | Washington Examiner

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