Flu season coupled with COVID have potential for increased illness, workforce shortages
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In anticipation of what is expected to be a more severe flu season than last year, WVU Medicine will continue to require patients, visitors, and staff to wear masks in public and clinical areas of all its hospitals and outpatient clinics.
This decision comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement making mask requirements optional for healthcare facilities in regions where community transmission is not labeled as “high” and as countries in the southern hemisphere – which serve as predictors for flu season in the United States – report their worst flu seasons in years. In fact, the Houston area of Texas is already reporting flu case numbers that are typically more consistent with numbers seen a couple months into flu season.
“We have two main goals with continuing our masking requirement. First, we want to protect our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and those who are immunocompromised,” Michael Stevens, M.D., M.P.H., healthcare epidemiologist for the WVU Health System, said. “And second, we want to keep our employees healthy so they can continue to care for patients who need our services and keep themselves and their families healthy, too.”
In addition to masking, Dr. Stevens stressed the importance of vaccinations against the flu and COVID as a means of protection over the coming weeks and months.
“Fortunately, we all have tools in our toolboxes that we can use to prevent serious illness and even death from severe cases of flu and COVID. Masking is one, and frequent and thorough handwashing is another,” he said. “Getting the annual flu vaccine and staying up to date on COVID boosters is also critical. It’s up to us to protect ourselves and each other.”
The masking policy will be under constant evaluation as standards of care at other organizations are monitored.