COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced it is encouraging people to wear masks to help reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses this season as COVID-10, influenza, and RSV circulate at the same time.
CDC data shows almost every state is reporting high or very high flu activity. The data also shows Ohio is in the most alarming category.
“We’re in a high-risk transmission zone so especially for the flu right now,” said Dr. Ben Bring with OhioHealth. “I know our testing positivity rate is just over 25%, so if we tested 100 people, more than 25 are going to test positive for that.”
People aren’t just getting sick with the virus; many are ending up in the hospital. Nearly 20,000 people nationwide were admitted to the hospital with influenza last week. The number of flu-related hospital admissions “almost doubled” compared to the week before, the CDC said.
The number of hospitalizations so far this year is already higher than any flu season since 2010-2011.
The question for many is if mask mandates will return.
“I don’t think we will ever get back to that mask requirement at all,” Bring said. “Honestly, I think we need to just weather this storm over the next couple of weeks to months.”
Still, he says masks are a good idea.
“The reason is to help you prevent from that aerosol transmission, so when you’re talking, when you cough, when you sneeze, it kind of puts the virus up into the air and then it could potentially cause someone else to breathe it in,” he said. “The other thing is what we call fomite transmission, where if you cough or breathe on a hard surface and that virus can actually stay and live on that surface. Someone touches it, touches their nose or their mouth, you can get it that way.”
He also urges people to stay home if they are sick and have any symptoms like a runny nose, cough, night sweats, etc. Good hand hygiene and staying up to date on your vaccinations is also recommended.