From the Journals

Review supports continued mask-wearing in health care visits



A new study urges people to continue wearing protective masks in medical settings, even though the U.S. public health emergency declaration around COVID-19 has expired.

Masks continue to lower the risk of catching the virus during medical visits, according to the study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine. And there was not much difference between wearing surgical masks and N95 respirators in health care settings.

The researchers reviewed 3 randomized trials and 21 observational studies to compare the effectiveness of those and cloth masks in reducing COVID-19 transmission.

“Masking in interactions between patients and health care personnel should continue to receive serious consideration as a patient safety measure,” Tara N. Palmore, MD, of George Washington University, Washington, and David K. Henderson, MD, of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., wrote in an opinion article accompanying the study.

“In our enthusiasm to return to the appearance and feeling of normalcy, and as institutions decide which mitigation strategies to discontinue, we strongly advocate not discarding this important lesson learned for the sake of our patients’ safety,” Dr. Palmore and Dr. Henderson wrote.

Surgical masks limit the spread of aerosols and droplets from people who have the flu, coronaviruses or other respiratory viruses, CNN reported. And while masks are not 100% effective, they substantially lower the amount of virus put into the air via coughing and talking.

The study said one reason people should wear masks to medical settings is because “health care personnel are notorious for coming to work while ill.” Transmission from patient to staff and staff to patient is still possible, but rare, when both are masked.

The review authors reported no conflicts of interest. Dr. Palmore has received grants from the NIH, Rigel, Gilead, and AbbVie, and Dr. Henderson is a past president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

A version of this article first appeared on

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