Some hospitals and hospital systems across the country are reinstating mask policies well over three years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Major mask mandates that dominated the country for months on end — including the controversial mask mandate for air travel, which the courts struck down — have come and gone. However, some entities, including schools and some workplaces, have brought them back, at least on a short-term basis, citing rising cases of the coronavirus.
Massachusetts’ Baystate Health is among those bringing back masking, requiring those entering patient rooms or care areas to wear a mask.
Dr. Andrew Artenstein, Baystate Health’s chief physician executive and chief academic officer, said the hospital system opted to make this decision because of an increase in coronavirus cases. He believes this move will “protect the safety and health of [their] patients, visitors, and employees.”
The statement reads [emphasis added]:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Baystate Health’s dedicated team of infectious diseases specialists, hospital epidemiologists, and infection control professionals have vigilantly monitored the risk of COVID-19 infection in our communities. As case and hospitalization rates have escalated in recent weeks, we have determined that in order to protect the safety and health of our patients, visitors, and employees, we must re-institute the requirement that face masks be worn by employees and visitors in all direct patient care areas in Baystate Health hospitals and the Cancer Center, effective immediately. Our team will be continually monitoring the state of COVID-19 in our communities, so that our policies can adjust based on the risk assessment.
WestMass News also cited UMass microbiologist Dr. Erika Hamilton, who believes other hospitals will follow suit, reinstating mask mandates.
Elsewhere, the University of Chicago Medical Center is bringing back masks, forcing employees to wear them when coming in “direct contact” with patients, per CBS News.
The trend continues in New Jersey, where Cape Regional Medical Center in Middle Township is requiring employees to wear masks, citing an “increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID at Cape Regional Medical Center as well as community members with COVID.”
These mask mandates come despite the fact that studies show masks to be relatively ineffective in preventing one from contracting or spreading the virus. A Cochrane Library study released this year, found that “wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like illness (ILI)/COVID-19 like illness compared to not wearing masks[.]” It even concluded that the N95 masks and “P2 respirators compared to medical/surgical masks probably makes little or no difference for the objective and more precise outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection[.]”
The study concluded in part:
The pooled results of RCTs did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks. There were no clear differences between the use of medical/surgical masks compared with N95/P2 respirators in healthcare workers when used in routine care to reduce respiratory viral infection.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci privately admitted at the beginning of the pandemic that the “typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material.”
Nevertheless, some local officials across the country have expressed an openness to bringing back masks.
“‘Ever’ is not a word I’m comfortable with,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said when asked if the department would ever force masking again.
“There’s not that level of certainty with this pandemic. I’m never going to say there’s not going to be a time when we all need to put our masks back on,” she added.