More Hospitals Reinstate Mask Mandates

Federal data shows that COVID-19 hospitalizations have actually been on the decline.
More Hospitals Reinstate Mask Mandates
A healthcare professional prepares to enter a patient's room in a file photo. (Megan Jelinger/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Several more hospitals have implemented mask mandates in recent days—despite recent federal data showing that COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined.

This week, several New Jersey hospitals and care facilities confirmed that mandates would be returning. That includes facilities operated by Hackensack Meridian Health.

The Carrier Clinic in Montgomery Township, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK University Medical Center in Edison, Ocean University Medical Center in Brick, Old Bridge Medical Center, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Stafford will be under mask mandates, the company told NJ Advance Media.

“This decision was made due to an increase in COVID-19 prevalence in these hospitals, facilities and communities,” Hackensack Meridian Health said in a statement. “The health and safety of our team members and patients has always been and continues to be our number one priority.”

Several other New Jersey hospitals recently reinstated mask mandates, including Shore Medical Center in Somers Point and Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May, local media reported. Those facilities implemented the mask policies due to what officials say is a recent rise in cases and hospitalizations.
Hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 remain low across New Jersey, according to data provided by the New Jersey Department of Health.
On the other side of the United States, Marin County in California's Bay Area on Thursday announced that the mandatory wearing of masks in hospitals and other facilities will come back starting Nov. 2 for health care workers. The requirement will end on March 31, 2024, the county told local news outlets.

"Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 cases have spiked in late fall. The simultaneous circulation of three respiratory viruses contributes to a seasonal rise in sick days from work and school, and increased hospitalizations and deaths," Marin County health officials said.

Other Bay Area counties have done the same in recent days. Contra Costa, Sonoma, Alameda, and San Mateo counties issued mask orders for health care staff in hospitals and other care facilities.

Their orders start Nov. 1 and will last until April 30, 2024, the officials said, citing recent increases in COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory viruses.

For example, Contra Costa Health Services CEO Anna Roth confirmed to the county's board of supervisors last week that the mandate will be enacted, according to local media reports.

"We are issuing the health order today around masking for high-risk facilities, health care facilities specifically," Ms. Roth said. "So again, masking in hospitals, masking in skilled nursing facilities, masking in high-risk facilities."

Since August, several hospitals across the United States have reimplemented mask mandates, although some have only made face coverings mandatory for employees—not patients or visitors. A smaller number of schools and some private businesses have also made masking mandatory in recent weeks, sparking fears of a repeat of COVID-19 mandates that were imposed over the past several years.

Several hospitals in upstate New York, Massachusetts, and California implemented a mask mandate in August. An elementary school in Maryland also recently made masking a requirement for a kindergarten class due to what officials said was a rise in cases of the virus.

Republican officials have expressed alarm about the return of mandates, with several 2024 GOP presidential candidates speaking out against them. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month said his state wouldn't reimplement the mandates, and former President Donald Trump released a video on social media calling on Americans to resist the rules, which he described as tyrannical.

Hospitalizations Drop

Data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that across the United States, hospitalizations were down 4.3 percent for the week ending Sept. 16. The number had been increasing since July, but the CDC’s historical trends suggest that hospitalization numbers are relatively low compared with previous seasonal increases of COVID-19.

The latest CDC figures also show that emergency department visits are down 19.3 percent and test positivity is down 1.6 percent for the same week. Deaths are up by about 12.5 percent, the data show.

“Looking at that graph [of] hospitalizations, even though it’s on an upward trend, that’s still lower than it was last year at this time,” Dr. John Segreti, an epidemiologist and the medical director of infection control and prevention at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told ABC News in August. “The fact that the numbers are going up fairly slowly, I think is a good sign.”

And last month, Dr. Shira Doron, chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, said that the recent “upswing is not a surge; it’s not even a wave.”

“What we’re seeing is a very gradual and small upward trajectory of cases and hospitalizations, without deaths really going along, which is great news,” the doctor added.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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