Why Some Health Officials Are Once Again Advising Americans To Wear Masks

Earning the name "tripledemic," the U.S. is presently facing the simultaneous circulation of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the flu, and COVID-19, reports NPR. With millions of Americans contracting these infections in recent weeks, some states are now experiencing hospital overwhelm from the influx of respiratory illness cases. "We are seeing a clear uptick in infections of COVID pretty much in every region of the country, up about 40% over the last couple of weeks," White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha publicly stated on December 8, as reported via U.S. News & World Report. "So three challenges all arriving at the same time. There's going to be some bumpy days ahead."

While mask mandates have not returned, in light of the increase in case numbers, some local health officials across the country have begun issuing strong masking recommendations once again (via U.S. News & World Report). Such areas include counties in California, Washington, New York, Colorado, Oregon, and Massachusetts, reports The Seattle Times. In some regions, these recommendations have also been extended to schools, as evidenced last week when New York health officials encouraged schools to once again implement indoor mask-wearing (per The Hill).

Masking during the holiday season

"Flu's here, it started early, and with COVID and RSV also circulating, it's a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season," Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association recently told U.S. News & World Report. With holiday celebrations fast approaching, masking is primarily being encouraged for indoor gatherings, as well as in crowded shared spaces such as airports or shopping malls, according to The Washington Post. Experts state that wearing a high-quality medical mask is particularly encouraged amongst older adults or for those with health issues.

In addition to protecting one's self, some local health officials are reminding citizens that masking during this time is also a means of protecting others, as well as alleviating the burden on healthcare workers. "When you put on your mask for these few weeks during this surge, it is about the people of LA County. It is about every individual, every visitor, our healthcare workers, essential workers, and other people who serve," writes Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in Los Angeles County, in a public statement issued last week. By masking up, experts state that we can help reduce the spread of all three respiratory viruses as 2022 comes to a close.