Skip to content Skip to footer

Healthcare Systems Reinstate Mask Mandates Amid Rising COVID-19 and Flu Cases

In an effort to combat the unrelenting surge in COVID-19 and flu cases, Johns Hopkins hospitals and medical offices will reintroduce mask mandates. Given the current low vaccination rates, this move is seen as a critical step in breaking the chain of transmission, officials detailed in a recent letter to patients. They join an expanding cohort of healthcare providers, including LifeBridge Health and the University of Maryland Medical System, who’ve decided to enforce masking protocols in all patient areas. The decision is not expected to be a long-term implementation. Johns Hopkins officials clarified that these measures may be relaxed as and when the rates of influenza-like illnesses diminish. Regular reviews will be conducted to adapt the requirements as the situation evolves.

This policy is a response to a directive issued by the Maryland Department of Health, late in December. In a letter to healthcare providers, it highlighted that the combined rate of hospitalizations associated with viral illnesses had soared past 10 per 100,000 inhabitants with COVID-19 and flu cases as the chief contributors. As of mid-December, the figure stood at 11.4 in the state. The department urged healthcare providers to solidify and expand infection control measures across all patient care sectors, including outpatient and long-term care divisions. These recommendations were penned by Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the state’s deputy secretary for public health services. Crucially, in addition to insisting upon universal mask-wearing, Dr. Kalyanaraman advocated vaccinations against COVID-19, flu and RSV for eligible patients and healthcare professionals. Other advised measures included early treatment using antiviral medications, rapid testing and isolation of infected cases, proper utilization of personal protective gear, and optimization of ventilation systems.

These precautions are proposed to be in place until the virus-associated hospitalization rate shows a consistent downward curve, registering below ten hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over a fortnightly period. There has been decreased focus on individual COVID-19 testing as vaccination and natural immunity via infection became widespread and infection rates plummeted. This, combined with waning public enthusiasm for mask-wearing, led to many healthcare entities dropping the compulsory mask mandate.

Today, the severity of hospitalizations guides the tracking of infections, given the dip in comprehensive testing. However, COVID-19 detection continues to be conducted on wastewater samples by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forging ahead, experts persist in their appeal for the public use of high-grade, protective masks such as N95s or KN95s, particularly when high case rates surround vulnerable individuals. LifeBridge Health and the University of Maryland Medical System have shared similar stances on the reinstatement of mask mandates from January 8, in an attempt to protect their stakeholders from the escalating spread of respiratory infections encompassing COVID-19, RSV, and flu.


Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]