NYS Health Department recommends a return to masks

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. The New York State Health Department is recommending people start masking again.

It’s not solely because of COVID. It’s because of a spike in respiratory viruses in kids.

Dr. Edward Lewis in Brighton, who specializes in pediatrics, says he thinks masking again is a good idea. He says in the last few weeks his office has had kids coming in with RSV, and some of them had to be hospitalized. Just last year his grandson was hospitalized with RSV.

“Last year, my grandson, who turns two today actually, spent five days in the hospital with RSV,” Lewis said.

Being in the medical field, Dr. Lewis says he’s seen it all but never thought it would be at home.

“I got to experience that as a grandpa too, which is a little different than doing it as a pediatrician, which changed my outlook for that illness.”

That is why his office never stopped masking. The state is recommending precautions we’ve heard before: masking, staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands, and staying home if you’re not feeling well. These recommendations are for the community but inclusive of schools.

“The kids are on top of one another and we see a lot of transmission there,” he said. “I think to go back to masking even if it’s on a voluntary basis makes a lot of sense masking when you’re in the store or in the mall.”

Respiratory viruses, including COVID, RSV, and the flu continue to put a strain on health care systems. Kids are getting sick, which is affecting the availability of pediatric beds across the state.

“Two weeks ago I had two kids hospitalized with influenza,” he said. “Peds has been running at about 120% capacity, which means the kids who have the same infection or are not infectious are placed in cohorts.”

The state health department says the number of lab-confirmed flu cases has tripled over the last three weeks and flu hospitalizations have doubled. We have reached out to school leaders for more on what this means for Monroe County education.