Masking requirements in health care have continued longer than in the community because these settings need higher safety measures. In March 2020, the world was rocked by the COVID-19 Pandemic. It became the norm to have to wear masks on planes, trains, and public settings. Universal masking became a critical protective measure. Now, most mask mandates only remain at hospitals and in healthcare settings, but experts say it is time to walk back those policies.
According to Annals of Internal Medicine “proportion of individuals at high risk for complications of infection. However, the context and conditions of the pandemic have changed dramatically and favorably since masking requirements in health care were initially adopted, and evidence-based public health policy should also adapt in response.”
The article also highlighted the theme of constant and ongoing change, they review the rationale for initially expanding mask use in healthcare settings, the reasons why de-escalation is needed, and conditions that could prompt reconsideration of use of masks more widely again.
“After three years of universal masking in healthcare, the risk-benefit calculation has shifted,” said Shira Doron, MD, chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine health system and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center. “Masks do have downsides, such as impaired communication and disrupted human connection. We are at a stage of the pandemic where it now makes sense to end mandatory masking.”
As for informing future masking policies, they argue research should continue to be done and examined in conjunction with “ongoing local reassessment of utility to ensure requirements are not maintained longer than necessary and are reinstated when needed.”