By Nina Kohn and Irina D. Manta
This month, New York became the latest to join the growing list of states that have ended their requirements for routine masking in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
In response, at least one of the state’s largest hospital systems is throwing off the mask despite the continued high level of virus transmission in New York City and most of the rest of the state. NYU’s Langone hospital system decided that — outside of the Emergency Room — patients would generally only be required to mask “if they have fever and cough” (query what percentage of individuals with recent COVID-19 infections did not have this specific combo of symptoms — spoiler: it’s probably high). Similarly, the hospital announced that masking by direct care staff was optional in most situations, with masks required mainly during certain procedures, in particular patient rooms, or — more cryptically — when “there is concern for exposure to infectious aerosols.”
Ending routine masking in hospital settings is a dangerous move. It puts patients and staff at risk for infection, and its potential long-term effects. It also exposes hospitals to the risk of liability.