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By Renz Soliman

Officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged the use of face masks once again as the nation experiences a “tripledemic” and a rising number of COVID-19 cases. Several communities in the U.S., including New York City and Los Angeles, have been rated “high” for COVID transmission levels. On Thursday, CDC officials warned that the recent spike in coronavirus infections could be high enough to warrant the use of face masks in indoor settings to curb the spread of the virus.

CDC Urges Use of Face Masks Again

A recent weekly report from the health agency showed that several communities have been placed on the “high” rating for coronavirus levels. New York City health officials, earlier this month, sent out a notice urging all educational establishments to go back to having their students wear face masks even if they are vaccinated.

Furthermore, officials from Los Angeles said that they had already planned to do the same if coronavirus cases in the area continue to rise. The CDC in February lifted its nationwide mask recommendation, instead choosing to let local governments have the final say in the matter, as per People.

Health officials only advised those with “high” COVID transmission levels to retain mask mandates as a precautionary measure. The agency added that the mask mandate was no longer required in areas with “low” or “medium” coronavirus case rates.

At the time, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that they wanted to give people a break from guidance such as wearing face masks when levels are low and only using them again when needed.

According to the New York Times, the tripledemic that some American communities are experiencing is a combination of COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It comes as coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations have risen by 56% and 24%, respectively, in the last two weeks.

Tripledemic of Illnesses

Estimates released by the CDC showed that there have already been 13 million illnesses and 7,300 deaths from flu this season alone. Moreover, health experts anticipate those numbers to rise in the following months through the holiday season.

In comparison, in the last decade, annual flu deaths have ranged from 12,000 to 52,000, with peak numbers coming in from January and February. On the other hand, while RSV appears to be slowly thinning away, infection rates are still high across many communities in the United States.

A professor of preventing medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. William Schaffner, said that rates of the three respiratory illnesses may be more or less intense in some parts.

The situation comes as a Dec. 8 report showed that 13.7% of Americans were now living in communities tagged as “high” COVID transmission, which is an increase from last week’s 4.9%. On the other hand, there were 38.1% that were in “medium” areas, and 48.2% that were in “low” areas.

More than 10 counties in California, including Los Angeles and San Bernardino, were recently placed in the “high” tier. Health officials from Los Angeles County are now strongly recommending once again the use of face masks indoors, The Hill reported.