covid-19 /

Hospitals Reinstate Mask Mandates Despite Study Claiming They 'Make Little to No Difference'

The policy shift comes as doctors admit they cannot distinguish COVID-19 from the common cold or seasonal allergies

Some hospital systems across the U.S. are reinstituting mask mandates in response to a new strain of COVID-19 that is said to be circulating.

Baystate Health in Massachusetts says that anyone entering patient rooms or patient care areas must wear a mask at all times. The policy shift comes as the U.S. sees a slight surge among hospitalized individuals who test positive for the virus.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Baystate Health’s dedicated team of infectious diseases specialists, hospital epidemiologists, and infection control professionals have vigilantly monitored the risk of COVID-19 infection in our communities,” Baystate Health Chief Physician Executive and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Andrew Artenstein said in a statement.

“As case and hospitalization rates have escalated in recent weeks, we have determined that in order to protect the safety and health of our patients, visitors, and employees, we must re-institute the requirement that face masks be worn by employees and visitors in all direct patient care areas in Baystate Health hospitals and the Cancer Center, effective immediately,” he added.

Recently, Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York reinstated a mask mandate, citing a rise in patients testing positive for the virus.

The new mask mandates come despite information showing that forced masking has no impact on transmission rates of COVID-19.

During the first wave of lockdowns and restrictions at the onset of the 2020 pandemic, mandates that people wear face masks were ubiquitous across the country. However, a 2023 review of a number of prior and recent studies indicates the relative inefficacy of masking to prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses.

The new analysis presented by the Cochrane Library in January, which included 78 studies that involved nearly 300,000 people and took place in multiple countries worldwide, concluded that “compared with wearing no mask in the community studies only, wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness/COVID-like illness.”

Researchers added that even N95 masks and “P2 respirators compared to medical/surgical masks probably makes little or no difference for the objective and more precise outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection.”

In March, Karla Soares-Weiser, editor-in-chief of the Cochrane Library, issued a statement saying commentators who concluded “masks don’t work” after reading the review were arriving at “an inaccurate and misleading interpretation.”

“We are engaging with the review authors with the aim of updating the Plain Language Summary and abstract to make clear that the review looked at whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses,” Soares-Weiser added.

The latest rise in companies putting forced masking policies back into place comes as doctors acknowledge how mild the latest variant is, saying they are having difficulty distinguishing COVID-19 from the common cold or seasonal allergies.

“Just about everyone who I’ve seen has had really mild symptoms,” Dr. Erick Eiting, vice chair of operations for emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York City told NBC News, adding, “The only way that we knew that it was Covid was because we happened to be testing them.”

*For corrections please email [email protected]*