Concealment may feel like a thing of the past in America, even in cities like New York and Los Angeles that once embraced the precaution. But the health facilities are catching up “Tripledemic” of respiratory viruses – Covid, flu and RSV are on the rise at the same time – experts Once again urges the public Masks must be worn.
“I wouldn’t walk into a grocery store without a mask,” said John Schwartzberg, professor of infectious diseases and vaccine medicine at the University of California, Berkeley. “I will not go on rapid transit without a mask. “I wouldn’t get on a plane or be in an airport without a mask,” or attend a crowded outdoor event like a concert without one, Schwartzberg says.
Still, after nearly three years of mixed messages from officials, many Americans appear to have moved on from Covid — and one president said “The epidemic is over” When hundreds die every day – will anyone listen?
From December 2, The CDC reports The seven-day average is 4,201 Covid hospitalizations and 254 deaths. Meanwhile, the flu and RSV seasons have arrived unusually early, with the highest number of flu hospitalizations in a decade. On December 2, the company reported This season, 8.7 million cases of flu have been reported, including 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths. We haven’t seen the worst yet, Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and there are many more holiday gatherings to come, says John Schwartzberg, M.D., professor of infectious diseases and vaccine medicine at the University of California, Berkeley.
The good news: “Masks work against Covid, masks work against RSV, masks work against the flu and masks work against other respiratory viruses,” says Schwartzberg. “They actually work to prevent people from getting infected and the consequences of that infection.”
Abrar Karan, an infectious disease expert at Stanford University, agrees — a No of studiesincluding the latest “Natural Experiment” Comparing Masked and Unmasked Schools in Boston.
“Masks can help reduce the risk of getting viruses,” says Karan. “The better the mask you use, the more effective it is depending on the fit and filtration of the mask” – N95s, KN95s and KF94s provide good protection. His own experience speaks to their effectiveness: after years of treating Covid patients, he managed to avoid infection. “When I got infected, it was actually from someone who was sick in my own home,” he says.
When it comes to Covid, he notes that vaccines work well against acute diseases but are less effective against the infection. Masks provide an important additional layer of protection. As for less-transmissible viruses such as influenza and RSV, he says, “when we used mitigations,” such as masking early in the epidemic, “they went away in a big way.” However, after retreating from such measures, “we have now seen an upswing”.
But as anyone who’s gone to a grocery store or ridden the subway in recent months knows, Where’s Waldo trying to find someone with a mask these days? According to Sarah Wallace Goodman, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine and co-author of Pandemic Politics: Partisanship’s Deadly Toll in the Age of Covid, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
“The pandemic has really destroyed the public’s trust in health officials. That kind of has long-term staying power,” Goodman says. The US has never “created a narrative of flexible policy response” – a “shared understanding” in which, for example, “masking is like a raincoat or an umbrella: take it out when you need it and keep it away when you don’t”.
Meanwhile, the message about the mask has been “shared” from treating society’s response to a question of individual choice. “It’s very difficult to untangle that message and say it’s no longer a personal choice. “Especially in America – we’re very resistant to that kind of news,” he says.
Benjamin Rosenberg, a social-health psychologist at Dominican University in California, says we wish we heard more from social scientists as the government’s pandemic message takes shape. At this point, however, Rosenberg, who studies psychological reaction—”what happens when people are told what to do”—argues that the language of mandates and demands for compliance do little to change behavior.
However, there are other ways to increase the use of the mask. “In general, people want to choose their actions. We want to have choice, to have choice in what we do and the decisions we make, so forcing something really takes away that choice,” he says. On the other hand, pressing the mask “in a gentle, encouraging way” means “really this Saying you are going to get freedom. We’re not going to take it away from you… but in this context, here are some reasons to wear one.
When it comes to messaging, Karan says, public health officials need to be “more direct” with the message that “masks reduce the risk of infection.” Governments can also help by increasing the availability of masks. Not everyone has access to them, and “I forgot to take my mask, and I wish there was a way to quickly get one before I go to certain places.”
Goodman also sees benefits in “meaningful social interactions.” Joe Biden would be fine if he continued to wear a mask, but seeing neighbors wearing one would have a bigger impact, he says: “If people you know and trust are wearing a mask, you’ll think twice about not wearing one. .”
Ultimately, Schwartzberg says, we need a cultural shift so that masks are “somewhat normalized so that people feel more comfortable wearing a mask in certain settings”. Such sweeping change was unprecedented: it facilitated societal changes such as the flu pandemic of 1918. Expanding women’s rightsPartly spurred by the growing role of women in the labor force at the time, she notes.
“History is going to look back and say: ‘Why were masks politicized in this country? How weird,’ and frankly, it was weird,” Schwartzberg says. “But we are now in the midst of making history.”