As viral infections skyrocket, masks are still a tried-and-true way to help keep yourself and others safe
The cold and flu season of 2023 has begun with a vengeance. Viruses that have been unusually scarce over the past three years are reappearing at remarkably high levels, sparking a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This November’s national hospitalization levels for influenza were the highest in 10 years. Emily Toth Martin and Marisa Eisenberg are infectious disease epidemiologists and researchers, and have spent our careers focused on understanding how viruses spread and how best to stop them. To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health colleagues have had to quickly revive and apply decades of evidence on respiratory virus transmission to chart a path forward. Over the course of the pandemic, epidemiologists have established with new certainty the fact that one of our oldest methods for controlling respiratory viruses, the face mask, remains one of the most effective tools in a pandemic.