Masking up during flu season may become the new normal, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, where he predicted mask-wearing could become commonplace in society moving forward.
The director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said a significant decrease in respiratory illnesses will likely wake people up to the benefits of wearing a face covering (in addition to other public health measures such as social distancing) during cold and flu seasons.
“We’ve had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against COVID-19,” Fauci said.
Mask-wearing has been a highly politicized topic throughout the pandemic. Federal health officials likely appeased many after saying vaccinated people can safely go outside without donning a face covering two weeks ago.
The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask when in all crowded areas and places where it would be difficult to practice social distancing, however.
In general, the number of sniffles and coughs dropped significantly this year, with CDC statistics showing a 98% drop in flu-related hospitalizations between Oct. 1 and Jan. 30.
“Any precaution you take to avoid COVID will also reduce your risk of contracting an influenza virus,” Dr. Casey Kelley, pediatrician and founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health in Chicago told Healthline. “Handwashing, social distancing, and wearing masks are certainly driving down cases of the flu.”
Beyond practicing safer hygiene, wearing a mask, and keeping our distance, school and office shutdowns played a significant role in keeping us healthier than usual.
The closure of school’s may have been the biggest added factor, with children known to be the No. 1 cause of flu being spread through a community.
The decrease in high-contact events and closure of high-contact spaces also played a role.
“Public transit, office buildings and business travel are all high-contact events that are down significantly [this year],” Kelley told Healthline.
8,633 people were hospitalized with the flu during the 2019-20 flu season, compared to only 155 this past year.
Kelley is hopeful that continuing to practice safe habits should help limit the severity of flu seasons moving forward.
“Building and maintaining a strong immune system, washing hands, self-isolating when you don’t feel well, and even wearing a mask during the peak flu season will all reduce the spread of flu, even after the pandemic is history,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 581,000 people in the U.S., as of this writing, while 58% of adults have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.