Review Supports Continued Mask-wearing in Health Care Visits

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May 16, 2023 -- A new study urges people to continue wearing protective masks in medical settings, even though the U.S. public health emergency declaration around COVID-19 has expired.

Masks continue to lower the risk of catching the virus during medical visits, says the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  And there was not much difference between wearing surgical masks and N95 respirators in health care settings.

Researchers reviewed three randomized trials and 21 observational studies to compare the effectiveness of those and cloth masks in reducing COVID-19 transmission.

“Masking in interactions between patients and health care personnel should continue to receive serious consideration as a patient safety measure,” says an opinion article accompanying the study.

“In our enthusiasm to return to the appearance and feeling of normalcy, and as institutions decide which mitigation strategies to discontinue, we strongly advocate not discarding this important lesson learned for the sake of our patients’ safety,” the authors wrote.

Surgical masks limit the spread of aerosols and droplets from people who have the flu, coronaviruses or other respiratory viruses, CNN reported. And while masks are not 100% effective, they substantially lower the amount of virus put into the air via coughing and talking.

The study said one reason people should wear masks to medical settings is because “health care personnel are notorious for coming to work while ill.” Transmission from patient to staff and staff to patient is still possible, but rare, when both are masked.