Three colleagues of White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha have written an op-ed for NBC News calling for the return of mask mandates. The authors — Abdullah Shihipar, William Goedel, and Abigail Cartus — claim that American hospitals are overwhelmed by patients due to COVID, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the flu. Their op-ed consists of fear signaling that rising RSV and flu cases have pushed pediatric hospitals to capacity.
While it is true that pediatric hospitals have called President Joe Biden to declare an emergency to provide more resources, there are various reasons for hospitalization among children aside from having the flu or RSV that are causing the overflow. Among them is a resource problem: an amoxicillin shortage. When antibiotics are hard to get promptly, children don’t get treated in time and must be rushed to the hospital.
So far, the Biden administration is not acting on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ cries for aid. A U.S. Department of Human Health and Services spokesperson said that, instead, the administration had offered jurisdictional support to confront the impact of RSV and the flu. Help is ready and available to those that need it on a case-by-case basis.
It is unclear why NBC News has accepted the op-ed, as it has many already disproven claims. The White House hasn’t even acknowledged the alleged crisis mentioned by the writers. But they still claim the problems justify the return of mask mandates. They wrote, “where upper respiratory viruses are surging, mask mandates should be reinstated.”
Collective members @AShihipar, @william_goedel and Abby Cartus write about the surge in respiratory illnesses this fall and what we need to do to manage it, which includes bringing back mask mandates for the time being. https://t.co/4Xt5vPPsdP
— People, Place & Health Collective (PPHC) (@pph_collective) November 27, 2022
The op-ed explains that masks work to protect these viruses. Interestingly, a report published in the Washington Post earlier this year showed that states with mask mandates didn’t fare any better than those that did not impose mandates — some states with mandates, such as Rhode Island, saw illness rise higher than others.
Possibly the most outrageous claim in the op-ed is that mask mandates have “helpful psychological benefits.” The writers conclude that mask mandates should be a seasonal staple instead of an all-or-nothing situation. They write, “disease mitigation should be an ongoing practice that can be dialed up when necessary, rather than a switch that turns on or off completely.”