Aug. 24 (UPI) -- As rising COVID-19 cases driven by variant EG.5 continued Thursday to sicken and hospitalize more people, some hospitals, universities and businesses across the United States are mandating masking again in response.
Kaiser Permanente in California, Rutgers University in New Jersey and Morris Brown College in Georgia have issued new mask mandates.
"To ensure that we are helping protect the health and safety of our patients, our workforce and our community, we have reintroduced a mask mandate for physicians, staff, patients, members, and visitors in the hospital and medical offices in the Santa Rosa Service Area," Kaiser said in a statement.
Upstate Medical hospitals in Syracuse, N.Y., have also returned to mandatory masking for all staff, visitors and patients in clinical areas of University Hospital and Community General, according to a memo sent to staff.
The mask mandate comes as more hospital staff are out sick with COVID-19.
"These numbers change all the time but there is an upward trend of COVID-associated hospitalizations in our community," Dr. Stephen Thomas, Upstate's director of global health, said in a statement. "We are nowhere near where we were at our busiest point but we have more patients now than we did a month ago. Fortunately, we are well within our capacity to care for all of our patients."
Morris Brown College said in an Instagram statement, "There will be no parties or large student events on campus for the next two weeks."
COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 30% throughout Georgia, according to CDC data.
The college said all students and staff must wear masks and maintain physical distancing.
Hollywood film studio Lionsgate has reinstated its mask mandate amid the rise in infections, according to an internal company memo obtained by Deadline.
While COVID-19 cases are increasing, for now hospital admission rates are still considered low, according to the CDC.
The EG.5 variant accounts for the largest proportion of new COVID-19 infections nationwide. It appears to be beating other variants due to a mutation.
The CDC urges specific groups of high-risk people to mask, including older people, those with certain medical conditions and pregnant people. It also urges masking in areas of the country that have 20 or more people per 100,000 hospitalized with COVID-19.
"Hospitalizations have not yet doubled, but I think they probably will, as the numbers lag a couple of weeks behind," said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the University of San Francisco medical department. "It's riskier that you will get infected now than it was a month or two ago, without question, probably twice as risky. If you're trying to be careful, it's time to whip out the mask again."
Wachter said the COVID-19 levels in wastewater, an early indicator of increased infections, have doubled.