Hospitals are bringing back masks. Here's what physicians think.

Many hospitals nationwide are reinstating mask requirements. But is this the best course of action?

Six physicians connected with Becker's to answer, "What do you think about hospitals bringing back masks?"

Editor's note: These responses were edited lightly for length and clarity. 

Anthony Bevilacqua, DO. Orthopedic Surgeon at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center (Suffolk, Va.): To me, it's a super easy response. The only people that should be required to wear masks are those that have illnesses that they could convey to others. There is no science to support universal masks, as we all know. I suspect it will be determined based on the political climate in each facility or health system. It's easy to say that there is little downside to wearing masks, but unless there is science that supports it, there is a tremendous amount of body language and both verbal and nonverbal communication that is lost with unnecessary mask use. We need to be mindful of the downside, and I don't believe society is talking about that.

Dennis Chin, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon in the U.S. Navy Reserves: The CDC estimates there have been at least 14 million illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations and 9,400 deaths from flu so far this season. Masks are not perfect, but they are simple, cheap and can help. That is why those in Asian countries wear them in public during the winter.

Shadi Jarjous, MD. Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine and Vice Chair of Operations in the Department of Emergency and Hospital Medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network (Allentown, Pa.): I think the decision to bring back masking should be guided by the virus activity and available resources in the individual communities where each healthcare system serves. There are many factors that can affect that decision now as we have moved past the pandemic stage of the COVID-19 era and one size fits all is probably not the right approach. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has evolved significantly since its first appearance and has become overall less deadly. This was also helped tremendously by both passive and active immunity. However, COVID-19 is still a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, directly and indirectly, in high-risk patients. Therefore, it is important to continue to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable patients, especially in the season of peak virus activity.

James Leavitt, MD. Director of Clinical Innovation for Gastro Health: If a hospital or any healthcare setting required masking again, I would of course comply. In general, these types of mandates only occur when there is significant risk of infectious disease transmission. I would think that no one would think twice about wearing a mask before going into a room occupied by a patient with active tuberculosis. So, if we are trying to prevent spread of a serious infectious disease by decreasing exposure to aerosolized droplets, then we should do it. Safety should always be one of the primary drivers in how we provide care both for the institution and each individual.

Clauden Louis, MD. Clinical Associate Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Winter Haven (Fla.) Hospital: Seems appropriate when needed to mitigate outbreaks. Institutions should agree on what percent outbreak is necessary to consider enacting such measures so that mask is considered as a clinical tool.

Eugene Shively, MD. Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville (Ky.): Masks are very important in controlling pulmonary infections, not only for the patient but the hospital personnel.

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