Chicago — A “tripledemic” of the coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, has prompted several cities and counties to encourage people to wear a mask in indoor public spaces once again..
The news comes as COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations have spiked by 56% and 24%, respectively, over the past two weeks nationwide, according to the New York Times.
Also the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been 13 million illnesses and 7,300 deaths from flu this season while RSV infection rates are still high across much of the country.
The CDC advises wearing a mask on a county-by-county basis depending on community COVID-19 levels but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NPR “You don’t need to wait for CDC’s recommendation, certainly, to wear a mask.”
Dr. Helen Chu, an associate professor of allergy and infectious diseases at UW Medicine in Seattle, recommends that everyone wear a mask while infection and hospitalization rates are high.
“I think it’s a good time to mask,” she said. “Given where we are right now with hospitals being at very close to capacity, especially in pediatric hospitals with RSV and with flu, I think that anything that you can do to slow down community transmission is going to be helpful.”
There is strong evidence that masks help to reduce the transmission of COVID, influenza, the common cold viruses, and RSV. Masks filter out the tiny aerosol particles through which the coronavirus is primarily spread and the larger droplets that are thought to be responsible for most influenza and RSV transmission.
Experts urged wearing masks while traveling on planes and public transportation, and while shopping for groceries and gifts. For smaller holiday parties with people you know, they said it’s fine to forgo masks if guests test beforehand.