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COVID-19 Hospitalizations on the Rise: The Need for Mask Guidelines and Healthcare Precautions

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Mason Walker
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COVID-19 Hospitalizations on the Rise: The Need for Mask Guidelines and Healthcare Precautions

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Rising COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise for the seventh consecutive week, causing a surge in respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza. This alarming trend has prompted hospitals across several states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin, to reinstate indoor masking rules in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus. The reinstatement comes amidst the respiratory virus season, compounded by recent holiday travel and gatherings, leading to an overall increase in respiratory illnesses.

Strain on the Healthcare System

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a significant escalation in weekly hospital admissions due to COVID-19 and influenza, marking the seventh consecutive week of increases in COVID-19 hospital admissions. This is the highest figure reported since late January 2023. The strain on the healthcare system has led to recommendations of staying home when sick and seeking care if symptoms worsen or do not improve.

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High Levels of Respiratory Virus Activity

During the week ending Dec 23, hospitals admitted more than 29,000 patients with Covid-19, about 15,000 admitted with the flu, and thousands more with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The COVID-19 levels in wastewater are alarmingly high, higher than they were at this time last year in every region. Weekly emergency department visits rose 12% and hospitalizations jumped about 17% in the most recent week. Flu activity is also rising rapidly, with over 7 million illnesses, 73,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths related to the flu this season.

Low Vaccine Uptake

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Despite the availability of vaccines to help prevent severe illness and death, uptake remains low this season. Hospital bed capacity remains stable nationally. However, due to high levels of respiratory viruses, hospitals in at least five states are returning to requiring masks. More than 230 US counties were considered to have high levels of Covid-19 hospital admissions, and nearly a thousand other counties have medium Covid-19 hospital admission levels.

Protective Measures and Recommendations

Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist, underscored the importance of mask guidelines in safeguarding vulnerable patients and at-risk individuals in healthcare settings. He also recommended staying home when unwell and seeking care if symptoms persist or worsen to prevent further strain on the healthcare system. Antiviral treatments for Covid-19 and flu can be beneficial, especially for those at higher risk for severe illness.

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High Respiratory Virus Levels in Certain States

Outpatient visits for respiratory illnesses have escalated for the seventh week consecutively, according to the CDC. COVID-19, flu, and RSV hospitalizations are also up across the country. South Carolina and Louisiana are among the states with the highest levels of respiratory virus activity. Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Tennessee are also experiencing 'very high' activity levels. Minnesota, in contrast, has the lowest reported level of respiratory cases in the nation.

Report from Los Angeles County

The daily average of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County has increased by more than 25 percent from 495 to 621. The daily average of COVID-positive hospitalizations increased by nearly 15 percent over the same time period from 604 to 686. Public Health is reporting a daily average of 5 deaths due to COVID-19, an increase from 2 earlier in the month. Measures such as staying home if sick, frequent handwashing, and wearing a well-fitted high-quality mask in crowded indoor spaces are recommended to curb transmission and protect vulnerable populations.

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