Mask mandates reinstated by local officials across the US as Covid-19, respiratory illnesses spread

Mask mandates reinstated by local officials across the US as Covid-19, respiratory illnesses spread

Local officials across the US are reinstating mask mandates in hospitals as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports an upward trend in Covid-19 hospitalisations.

Near the end of December, weekly hospital admission rates for Covid-19 hit their highest since January 2023, the CDC reported. Local officials in several states — including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey and New York — have now reinstated mask mandates in healthcare settings.

Large metropolitan areas in particular are taking swift action: Los Angeles County officials have ordered all staff and visitors at healthcare facilities to mask up, according to ABC 7. New York City officials have also issued mask mandates in all eleven public hospitals, local outlet ABC 7 New York reports.

Mask mandates will also protect patients from other respiratory diseases, like the flu and RSV, that are on the rise this winter — especially in the wake of holiday gatherings. A new Covid-19 subvariant is also on the rise: JN.1. On 22 December, the CDC said JN.1 makes up 39-50 per cent of circulating variants in the US.

While more infectious than its parents, JN.1 does not pose a greater risk of serious disease. Laboratory data also indicates that existing vaccines, tests and treatments are effective against JN.1, per the CDC.

“We really believe that the updated vaccine is going to protect against this JN.1 variant,” Thomas Russo, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, previously told The Independent.

In New Jersey, Covid hospitalisations statewide increased from 903 on Christmas Eve to 1,258 on New Year’s Eve, according to state Department of Health data. There were 135 Covid patients in intensive care and 35 on ventilators on 31 December.

In California, more infected people are being admitted into the state’s hospitals, according to The Los Angeles Times.

For the week that ended 23 December, 3,279 coronavirus-positive patients were newly admitted statewide, up 14 per cent from the prior week. It is also the highest weekly number in 10 months.