The Ottawa Hospital has announced that it will reinstate mandatory masking rules starting Monday, September 11, in anticipation of increased spread of respiratory illnesses like influenza, RSV, and Covid-19 during the upcoming fall season. In a statement released on Wednesday, the hospital specified that masks will be required in all clinical areas. This mandate will remain in effect for the duration of the respiratory virus season.
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Ottawa Brings Back Mask Mandates, but Will They Make Their Way Back to the US?
In preparation for the respiratory virus season, the Ottawa Hospital has announced that they will be updating their measures and requirements to "help protect patients, staff and members of the public." Starting on September 11, "masking will be required in all clinical areas and waiting rooms." These areas include inpatient units, patient rooms, nursing stations, and ambulatory care areas.
"Masking will continue to be encouraged, but optional, in all other non-clinical areas," the statement said. These areas include administrative offices, meeting rooms, and public spaces like the cafeteria. Because, apparently, the virus can't spread in these areas, only in the clinical areas.
The new rules represent a change from the hospital's more relaxed approach during the summer. Over the past few months, masks were made optional in public spaces, non-clinical areas, and clinical areas where direct patient care was not provided, such as nursing stations and unit hallways. The new guidelines reverse this, requiring masks once again in clinical areas where direct patient care is not provided. This approach aligns with other local healthcare facilities; Montfort Hospital, Queensway Carleton Hospital, and CHEO have also made masking mandatory in all clinical areas.
The Ottawa Hospital's decision to bring back mandatory masking in certain areas comes as healthcare facilities prepare for a possible uptick in respiratory illnesses during the fall. But it has left many people in the US wondering whether this will trickle down to the States. There are many people online who claim that they will never comply again with another mask mandate, and it seems like there are some local politicians who agree with this sentiment.
Mixed Feelings on Masking in America
The Huntington Beach City Council has just narrowly approved a declaration to ban universal mask and coronavirus vaccine mandates within the city. The measure passed with a 4-3 vote in a meeting that concluded at 2:48 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6. The new rules specify that they only apply to individuals who have already tested positive for Covid, making Huntington Beach effectively a "no mask and no vaccine" city for these cases.
The motion for this controversial declaration was introduced by Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark during the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Van Der Mark argued that previous mask mandates, which were imposed at City Hall and in other parts of the city during 2020 and 2021, "unnecessarily limited the freedoms of the citizens of Huntington Beach," even for those who were not around anyone who had tested positive for Covid-19 or were at risk of any exposure.
This decision comes at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing in Orange County, according to data from the Orange County Health Care Agency. However, the rise in cases has not resulted in an increase in hospitalizations. As of Thursday, following the meeting, the agency reported that 60 Covid patients were in hospitals within the county. In the preceding week, Orange County reported 1,053 positive cases and three deaths related to Covid. This decision poses questions about how this local mandate will interact with broader state and federal public health guidelines and mandates, particularly given that the new rules apply specifically to those who have already tested positive for the virus.
Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Maryland is temporarily reinstating mask requirements.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case for the whole country. Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland, is temporarily reinstating mask requirements for some of its students after several children in one classroom tested positive for Covid. The decision was communicated to parents through a letter, which became viral after being posted on social media by OutKick founder Clay Travis. According to the letter from School Principal Rebecca Irwin Kennedy, the school is taking measures to maintain a safe environment for in-person education.
For the next 10 days, students and staff in the affected classroom are required to wear N95 masks "to prevent further transmission." These masks will be distributed to the students, and wearing them will become optional again after the specified period. In addition to the mask mandate, at-home rapid test kits will be sent home, and parents are advised to be vigilant for symptoms of Covid-19 in their children. Testing is recommended "5 days after an exposure" or when symptoms appear, according to CDC guidelines. Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Christopher Cram confirmed that the mask requirement is specific to the classroom where the outbreak occurred and will expire on Monday, September 11. Cram indicated that this practice aligns with policies followed last year, which were effective in preventing local spread of the virus during outbreaks.
Indiana Senator Mike Braun and Ohio Senator J.D. Vance have introduced the Freedom to Breathe Act, a bill aimed at banning federal mask mandates in domestic air travel, public transit systems, and schools. The bill is set for Senate floor consideration on Thursday. A news release from Senator Braun's office states that opposition to the bill would signify an intention by Democrats to reimpose mask mandates soon. Senator Braun emphasized that the legislation is a stand against "top-down government overreach," calling current mask mandates "ineffective" and "unscientific." The proposed law, set to expire at the end of 2024, would not apply to hospitals or nursing homes. The senators argue that Congress needs to assert that such mandates will not return, challenging the scientific basis and effectiveness of mask-wearing in preventing Covid-19 spread.
Are Masks Actually Efficacious?
A recent study challenges the efficacy of mask mandates, which were adopted by 39 American states during the pandemic as a measure to curb the virus's spread. The paper, shared by the independent policy institution Cochrane, analyzed 78 randomized controlled trials involving people from various countries and income levels. The aim was to assess the effectiveness of common "physical interventions," like wearing masks and washing hands, in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses. The findings suggest that masks make "little to no difference" in stopping the virus' spread.
The findings suggest that masks make "little to no difference" in stopping the virus' spread.
The review included nine studies and encompassed 276,917 individuals, concluding that wearing a face mask did not significantly affect one's risk of contracting the coronavirus. This review even took into account the effectiveness of various mask types, from medical and surgical masks to N95 respirators. According to the paper, "Wearing N95/P2 respirators probably makes little to no difference in how many people have confirmed flu... or respiratory illness."
The Cochrane study mainly focused on randomized trials, differing from most past mask studies, which were population-based. Some experts argue that the results might be different in "real-world" conditions. Opinions on the effectiveness of mask mandates remain divided. Some experts and citizens believe that these mandates were largely ineffectual and did not provide significant benefits to society, while others maintain that they played a role in slowing the virus's spread. Skepticism also exists about the possibility of the government using future crises to implement new mask and lockdown mandates as a means of gaining control over the population. This division underscores the complex and often polarizing issue of public health measures, particularly as the study casts doubt on a widely-adopted preventative strategy.
Very few people believe that mask mandates would make any difference in curbing the spread of respiratory viruses like coronavirus, and even fewer are willing to comply with any mandates that might be in our future.
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