The New York City health commissioner reinstated an indoor mask mandate Jan. 3 for public hospitals, health centers and long-term care facilities amid a rise in COVID-19, flu and respiratory virus cases, according to ABC 7 NY.
Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said Wednesday that the mandate applies in patient-care areas of health facilities and that the intent is, in part, to protect staff from falling sick as cases increase, the ABC News affiliate reported.
COVID cases have been rising across the U.S. since mid-November. Across all age groups, COVID hospitalizations have climbed nearly 64% from Nov. 26 to Dec. 23, reaching 6.08 per 100,000 people, according to data from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The number of weekly flu hospitalizations has also risen from 356 during the week ending Nov. 25 to 1,400 the week ending Dec. 23, according to the New York State Department of Health.
The New York City mandate comes as healthcare systems in other cities and states have also reinstated masking guidelines. In the Chicago area, Rush University Medical Center, Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital announced Jan. 2 a new policy requiring patients, visitors and staff to wear hospital-approved face masks in waiting areas, patient rooms and other interactive settings, just weeks after Cook County Health and Endeavor Health implemented similar mandates in the area.
In California, Los Angeles County put in place a masking requirement Dec. 27 for staff and visitors in all licensed healthcare facilities after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10.5 new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people in the county for the week ending Dec. 23, CBS News reported.
Mass General Brigham, UMass Memorial and Tufts Medicine are joining Beth Israel Lahey, Boston Medical Center and Dana Farber Cancer Institute in enacting similar requirements in Massachusetts, according to GBH.
When facing a surge in viruses, hospitals can take measures to improve and maintain indoor air quality to contain levels of infection and prevent any exacerbation, noted Amy Nunziata, executive vice president and operations lead at JLL’s healthcare division. That involves “ensuring that negative pressure rooms and airborne isolation rooms are properly maintained to start with,” she said in an interview. “Ensuring that the appropriate number of air exchanges is being delivered to the spaces is important as well.”
The most important measures to take to ensure compliance with the new mask requirement involve providing access to masks and an ability to “change them out if soiled,” Nunziata said. “Communication also comes into play to ensure that hospital visitors, staff and patients are aware of the requirement and the reasons for reinstating at this time,” she added, suggesting that hospitals could limit the number of entrances available to the public to ensure that masks are available in those locations.