Amid the current rise in COVID-19 cases and influenza respiratory infections, New York City public hospitals are joining a growing number of health care facilities in states across the country to reinstitute mask mandates, according to multiple reports.
The indoor mask requirement is in effect at 11 hospitals, 30 health centers and five long-term care facilities that are part of the NYC Health + Hospitals system, according to a recent news report.
“Masking remains an extremely important and effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory viral infections, including COVID and influenza,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
The indoor masking requirement applies only to patient care areas in the facilities, Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan told a local news outlet.
Resuming the masking mandate also helps to protect medical workers amid a spike in respiratory illnesses, he noted.
None of the city hospitals are overwhelmed with patients at the moment, Vasan added.
Hospital systems in at least six other states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin — have also instituted mask mandates, according to recent news reports.
“Masking remains an extremely important and effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory viral infections, including COVID and influenza.”
Some of those include UC Health in Cincinnati, Ohio; Sonoma (California) Valley Hospital; University of Chicago Medicine Center; City of Hope in Duarte, California; Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center in California; and UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, among others, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.
National COVID and flu numbers
Around the nation, hospital admissions due to COVID-19 increased by 16.7% to 29,059 for the week ending Dec. 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That marked the seventh consecutive week that COVID-related hospitalizations have increased and the highest number on record since late January 2023.
The Omicron variant JN.1 is expected to account for approximately 39% to 50% of circulating variants in the United States, according to CDC data as of Dec. 23.
Hospital admissions linked to influenza also increased nationally to 14,732 for the week ending Dec. 23.
“CDC estimates that there have been at least 7.1 million illnesses, 73,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu so far this season,” the agency noted on its website.
Flu activity remains elevated in most areas of the county, as is hospital admissions.
Some 44% of adults in the U.S. had received the flu vaccination by late December and only an estimated 19% had received updated COVID-19 vaccinations as of early December, according to CDC data.
“The decision to mandate the wearing of masks — versus just strongly recommending them — will depend in part upon the incidence of COVID and influenza, the presence of immunocompromised patients on selected units and many other variables,” Glatt told Fox News Digital.
The CDC urges people and institutions to visit the agency’s website for information to help them make an informed decision on when to wear or require a mask.
Some factors that should influence the decision include local COVID hospital admission levels and an individual’s underlying risk factors for severe disease, such as older age, pregnancy and certain medical conditions.
“Each institution needs to assess all of these parameters and come up with an appropriate policy that can be implemented and easily modified as needed,” Glatt added.
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, previously said he supports mask requirements in hospitals that have vulnerable, high-risk patients.
He does not support universal mask mandates, however.
In cases where masks are used or required, the doctor told Fox News Digital in August that they should be “KN95 or better” and that people should receive instructions on proper use.
Added Siegel, “They should only be considered for a high volume of circulating respiratory viruses.”
Melissa Rudy of Fox News Digital contributed reporting.