'My kid could identify the flaws with this': Physicians concerned over CDC's new healthcare masking guidance

Some physicians are concerned the CDC's newly eased masking guidelines for healthcare facilities could lead to increased transmission in hospitals and nursing homes. 

The agency on Sept. 23 published the updated guidance, which says healthcare facilities that are not in communities with high levels of COVID-19 transmission no longer need to require masking for physicians, patients and visitors. This means over a quarter of counties nationwide can choose not to require masking in their facilities. The guidance still recommends universal masking during an outbreak or when caring for immunocompromised patients. 

Some physicians took to Twitter to express concerns over the eased guidance. 

"That means that places with substantial transmission can unmask sick patients who haven't been tested for COVID, right next to the elderly, chemo patients, people with pulmonary disorders, and pregnant women? My kid could identify the flaws with this plan," said Megan Ranney, MD, emergency physician and academic dean of Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I. 

Dr. Ranney also said her hospital is experiencing an increase in staff out sick with COVID-19. "Just the time to put patients and staff at higher risk of transmitting the virus to each other in the healthcare setting," she wrote in a tweet. 

Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, pointed out what he said were flaws with the agency's exceptions for the situations in which universal masking "remains recommended." 

"These include situations during an outbreak among patients (TOO LATE!) or when caring for patients who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (LIKE MOST IN THAT SETTING!)," Dr. Adams tweeted

Three more updates: 

1. Hospitalizations are down about 15 percent nationwide, according to HHS data compiled by The New York Times. The daily average for COVID-19 hospitalizations was 29,443 on Sept. 26, marking a 15 percent decrease from the two weeks prior. Cases are also down, reaching the lowest levels the nation has seen since April. COVID-19 deaths are still hovering at around 400 people per day. 

2. The CDC recently started tracking a new omicron subvariant called BF.7. It is now the third most-prevalent strain in the U.S., accounting for 2.3 percent of cases for the week ending Sept. 24. Read more about BF.7 here

3. Moderna and Pfizer have each submitted emergency use authorization requests to the FDA for a pediatric version of omicron-targeted boosters. Moderna's application is for children aged 6 to 11 and 12 to 17, and Pfizer's application covers 5 to 11 year olds. 

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