Health experts: Wear masks to curb 'tripledemic,' not just COVID-19

Health experts are urging the public to mask up in crowded spaces to curb the spread of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus during the holiday season. 

"We had a really good reason to wear a mask with COVID-19, and now we have even more of a reason. It's a three-fer — you get protection from flu, RSV and certainly from COVID-19," Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, told The Washington Post in a Dec. 7 report. 

During a Dec. 5 call with reporters, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the agency is considering an expansion of its COVID-19 community levels — which base masking recommendations off of COVID-19's strain on hospitals rather than infections alone — to include other respiratory viruses, like the flu. 

With the worst flu season in more than a decade and COVID-19 metrics on the rise, many experts agree it's a smart time to consider wearing a high-quality mask in crowded settings, or when gathering with older adults and others who may be at risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses. 

"If you are choosing to go into large crowds, places where transmission of infectious diseases might occur readily, it may be time to break out your mask and wear it," Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, told the Post. "You may not wish to wear them all of the time, but certainly when you are at a higher risk of exposure or are about to have a visit with an elderly parent or grandparent."

As of Dec. 1, about 6 percent of U.S. counties had a high COVID-19 community level — when the CDC recommends everyone wear masks. However, "One not need wait on CDC action in order to put a mask on," Dr. Walensky said. 


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