Initiatives to Mandate the Wearing of Masks
The use of facemasks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 became a divisive topic at the height of the pandemic and was highly politicized (Brainard et al., 2020). Mounting evidence has supported the use of face masks for disease prevention, especially for individuals who are sick (Leung et al., 2020). In conjunction with frequent hand washing and regular sanitization of frequently touched surfaces, face masks provide substantial protection as a method of source control for infected respiratory droplets (Chaabna et al., 2021).
The mandate of wearing masks to cover the mouth and nose is an effective strategy during an infectious outbreak. Additionally, face coverings are effective means to interrupt an airborne transmittable occurrence (Matuschek Et al, 2020). The effectiveness of the masks must meet the requirement for the infectious agent. While masks alone may not be the panacea, handwashing and distance must also be adhered to for complete effectiveness. Mask usage during close contact is linked to limiting pathogen- containing aerosol and liquid droplet dissemination. Even though various Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask recommendations were interim guidelines placed in response to the urgency of the pandemic, applying a deliberate, robust guideline development process is prudent with epidemics (Matthews, 2021). Based on these guidelines set forth by the CDC, state governments are the ones to develop the mandates (P. Jacobs & Ohinmaa, 2020). Individual private institutions can develop policies that are specific for their facility. However, if the facility is funded federally, they must abide by state government regulations or face penalties (P. Jacobs & Ohinmaa, 2020).
At the same time, it is feasible to emphasize other aspects of the initiatives to mandate the wearing of masks with the help of analyzing specific contexts and conditions, for instance, educational settings. The 50 state leaders enacted executive orders initially during the pandemic to battle COVID-19, most of which sought to reduce the spread of the virus and make it easier for the healthcare system to meet the increasing resource requirements (Yang et al., 2022). Nevertheless, several state-level initiatives have more frequently concentrated on restricting the power of local officials with regard to COVID-19 abatement, either via governors’ administrations or legislative bodies (Yang et al., 2022). Regardless of the claims that mask-wearing is an essential COVID-19 preventative tool, governmental measures to forbid local school systems from requiring mask-wearing have generated the most controversy among these laws (Yang et al., 2022). These suggestions are in direct conflict with those made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is due to the fact that they call for widespread masking in schools to encourage a transition to in-person education.
A significant public health concern is presented by state policies that limit masking standards in schools. In addition, insufficient masking in education settings is considered to be a result in the rising COVID-19 incidence among children under the age of 18 (Yang et al., 2022). When contrasted to formerly prevalent variations, the Delta mutation has enhanced both transmissibility and emerging outbreaks in vaccinated persons (Yang et al., 2022). As a consequence, this aspect has corresponded with the reintroduction of children to in-person schooling in the United States of America. AAP forecasts conclude that children will constitute 24 percent of disclosed weekly COVID-19 instances for the week expiring on October 7, 2021 (Yang et al., 2022). In general, this is a significant growth from earlier stages of the pandemic. This is true despite the fact that children under the age of 18 only overcompensate 16 percent of all accumulated COVID-19 situations and 22 percent of the United States citizenry (Yang et al., 2022). Hence, masking standards, requirements, and regulations represent an essential influence on the social life of citizens and cannot be ignored or abolished.
Increasing pediatric occurrences are stressing education systems, which are already striving to adjust infection avoidance and control practices to the quickly shifting COVID-19 scenario. This is in relation to the load on the healthcare delivery system (Yang et al., 2022). Due to an increase of COVID-19 cases, some school systems without masking regulations had to shut or alter their curriculum (Yang et al., 2022). In contrast, the instructions, standards, and recommendations on the usage of masks have previously been made public by several nations (Rab et al., 2020). To limit the transmission of the infection, they are imposing the legal requirement that their citizens wear masks when in a public setting (Rab et al., 2020). Therefore, when adherence is sufficient, wearing a mask in society appears to be one of the most efficient strategies to block the virus from spreading (Rab et al., 2020). This kind of disease preventive work, according to the justification of the executives and initiators, can slow the illness’s spread across a broad population. Therefore, as per the mandates, a strong contradiction exists between various governmental bodies and social groups, which leads to debates regarding masks.
Position Regarding Mask Mandate
In numerous reviews and randomized control trials (RCT), face masks in a general population provide significant benefit in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses, specifically in the pandemic situation, however lack of consistent usage by individuals causes variation in efficacy (Howard Et al., 2021). Compliance with appropriate usage of facemasks is the main limiting factor on complete efficacy, rather than the masks themselves (Coclite et al., 2021). Improper removal of the face mask and handling of a contaminated face mask can increase the risk of transmission (Brainard et al., 2020). After the removal of the used face mask, unwashed hands must avoid touching the face, mouth, and eyes to reduce the risk of being infected by the virus. However, in studies with high compliance of face mask usage saw significantly lower incidences of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (Brainard et al., 2020).
Advocacy Groups and Legislative Policy Initiatives
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (API) founded in 1972 have approximately 16,000 members with its mission being to create a safer world through the prevention of infection. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, API has been a strong advocate and urges Americans to wear face mask when in public. According to Association for professional in Infection and Epidemiology (2020), universal use of masks in public along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are the most effective steps that can be taken to protect ourselves and one another from COVID-19.
American Hospital Association (AHA) founded in 1898 with nearly 43,000 members represents and serves all types of hospitals, health care networks, and their patients and communities. AHA ensures that the needs of its members are heard and addressedaddressed in national health policy development. Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, AHA has been in the front-line of advocacy to Congress and the administration. AHA joined forces with other health care agencies and launched the “Wear A Mask” Campaign. The goal of the campaign was to resources on proper mas-wearing and care practices in addition to advice from health leaders to better equip the nation with the information they need to keep themselves, their family, and their communities safe (AHA, 2020).
American Hospital Association (2020). Wear a mask campaign. Wear-A-Mask-Digital-Toolkit.pdf (aha.org)
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (2020). Infection preventionists call on the public to wear mask, slow the spread of COVID-19. APIC.
Brainard, J., Jones, N. R., Lake, I. R., Hooper, L., & Hunter, P. R. (2020). Community use of face masks and similar barriers to prevent respiratory illness such as COVID-19: a rapid scoping review. Eurosurveillance, 25(49). Web.
Chaabna, K., Doraiswamy, S., Mamtani, R., & Cheema, S. (2021). Facemask use in community settings to prevent respiratory infection transmission: A rapid review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 104, 198–206. Web.
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Howard, J., Huang, A., Li, Z., Tufekci, Z., Zdimal, V., van der Westhuizen, H. M.,… & Rimoin, A. W. (2021). An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(4), e2014564118.
Jacobs, P., & Ohinmaa, A. P. (2020). The enforcement of statewide mask wearing mandates to prevent COVID-19 in the US: an overview. F1000Research, 9, 1100. Web.
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Matthews, S. (2021). CDC mask recommendations and guideline development: Missing pieces. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 1-2.
Matuschek, C., Moll, F., Fangerau, H., Fischer, J. C., Zänker, K., van Griensven, M.,… & Haussmann, J. (2020). Face masks: benefits and risks during the COVID-19 crisis. European journal of medical research, 25(1), 1-8.
Rab, S., Javaid, M., Haleem, A., & Vaishya, R. (2020). Face masks are new normal after COVID-19 pandemic. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 14(6), 1617-1619. Web.
Yang, Y. T., DeRoo, S. S., & Morain, S. R. (2022). State mask mandate bans for schools: Law, science, and public health. Pediatrics, 149(1). Web.