CDC Continues Warnings on Masking While Health Care Workers Show Fatigue

February 10, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
<strong>CDC Continues Warnings on Masking While Health Care Workers Show Fatigue</strong>
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned again this week that it is too soon to stop wearing masks in a warning ignored by many states tired of limitations imposed by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, an exodus of health care workers continues as the pandemic pushes them beyond the breaking point.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky described the governors of California, Illinois, New York and other states as dangerously optimistic in lifting their indoor mask mandates as the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads quickly.

“We’re still at 290,000 cases a day,” Walensky said Wednesday in a televised interview. “We still have hospitalization rates that are higher than they ever were at the peak of the delta wave. Similarly, for deaths, still at 2,300 per day.”


The risk of more infections is greatest where they are heavily concentrated, she said.

“That is essentially everywhere in the country,” Walensky said. “We continue to recommend universal masking in our schools.”

The governors were motivated by declining infection rates in much of the United States. They are down 63% in the past two weeks, according to the latest government figures.

A few southern states, namely Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia, remain near record levels of hospitalizations. They also are the states with some of the lowest vaccination rates.

The governors’ orders to allow unmasked students to attend schools and others to congregate in public indoor establishments are mostly in states with high vaccination rates.

The CDC warning about unmasking too soon implies hospitalization rates that pushed health care workers into long hours and dangerous conditions might rise again.

Their plight was mentioned during a Senate hearing Thursday on how the federal government should respond to the shortage of health care workers.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said recruitment in the health care workforce already was challenged before the pandemic. Then the outbreak led to patients being turned away from some hospitals, treated in the hallways of others and the National Guard filling in for routine nursing chores in a few states.


“It really shows a system where its weaknesses are,” Braun said during a hearing of a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee.

He cited surveys showing 10.9 million health care job vacancies nationwide in December 2021. 

By last October, 18% of health care workers quit their jobs, Braun said. Another 31% were thinking about leaving.

Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., chairman of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, said the pandemic demonstrated the importance of recruiting, training and retaining health care workers.

“The challenges for the health care workforce will extend beyond the pandemic,” Hickenlooper said.

His figures predicted a shortage of 125,000 physicians by 2034 at the current rate.

“If we’re going to make a dent in these daunting estimates, we need to get started now,” he said.

Much of the funding to improve the health care workforce comes from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law last March. One part of the pandemic economic stimulus program is the Provider Relief Fund, which is supposed to ensure health care workers get paid.

Some of the $178 billion already spent on the Provider Relief Fund was allocated to recruiting and training. The Senate is trying to decide how much more the federal government should contribute to the fund.

While the Senate decides where to spend the funding prompted by the devastation of the pandemic, time already has run out for about 3,000 city workers in New York. An estimated 3,000 are getting fired Friday for failing to comply with the city’s Feb. 11 deadline to get vaccinated.


More vaccine mandate deadlines are approaching for municipal workers in cities nationwide, such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Chicago, Illinois. Massachusetts, California, and Washington state already have fired hundreds of workers who refused to get vaccinated.

Tom can be reached at [email protected]

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