The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now urging Americans to wear face coverings against the flu and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – aside from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued the recommendation during a Dec. 5 briefing. “We also encourage you to wear a high quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” she said when discussing prevention measures for RSV and the flu.
Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, a trustee of the American Medical Association, said in the same briefing: “It’s a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season.” She added that the rising cases of RSV and the flu could increase even further in the coming weeks as American families gather for the holiday season.
The warnings by Walensky and Fryhofer came amid almost every U.S. state recording “very high” flu levels. The resurgence of the flu had been blamed on lockdowns, mask mandates and physical distancing measures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say that these measures to stem COVID-19 have deprived Americans of the chance to get exposed to these common viruses and develop their immune systems.
According to the public health agency, 11 states – California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington – recorded the highest level of flu circulation. Meanwhile, only four states – Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire and Vermont – recorded low or minimal flu transmission levels.
Aside from influenza, RSV continues to spread around the country, but has seen a slowdown in recent weeks. RSV often circulates alongside the flu, but is usually overlooked as it poses little to no danger to adults. Young children, however, are vulnerable to this respiratory infection.
Masking up appears to be the CDC’s default response to outbreaks
It appears that making people wear face coverings is the CDC’s default response to disease outbreaks. Oddly enough, it even urged traveling Americans to mask up against monkeypox – a disease in which masks do little to stop transmission.
According to the original version of the CDC’s travel advisory page, wearing a mask helps protect against “many diseases, including monkeypox.” Those infected with the disease and show “respiratory symptoms” were also urged to “wear a surgical mask.”
“If this is not feasible, other household members should consider wearing a surgical mask when in the presence of the person with monkeypox,” the agency added.
The same advisory pointed out that the disease spreads “through contact with the skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans” or “through contact with materials contaminated with the virus.” In particular, sexual contact between gay men appeared to be the No. 1 vector of monkeypox spread – rendering advice to mask up unnecessary and useless.
Backlash from the public eventually led to the CDC withdrawing its recommendation for travelers to mask up against monkeypox on June 7.
CBS News reporter Alexander Tin tweeted: “After adding the warning a week or so ago, the CDC now appears to have removed its previous urging for travelers to don masks to curb monkeypox.”
Newsmax contributor Dr. David Samadi, meanwhile, criticized the guidance in a tweet.
“I’m still trying to comprehend the CDC guidance to wear masks to slow the spread of monkeypox,” he wrote. “The disease is not airborne as of the moment. What exactly are the masks supposed to do in this case?”