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Face masks are quietly creeping back into daily life amid concerns about a new Covid variant, flu and RSV.
Hundreds of thousands of students across the US will be forced to wear face coverings in class when schools go back today, as controversial mandates make a return.
Despite Covid infection rates plateauing for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made masks a condition of entry for students coming back from the holidays.
However, there is conflicting evidence on whether face masks actually reduce infection rates on a large scale.
And mounting research shows the mandates stunted children’s social development and education.
Despite Covid infection rates plateauing for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made face coverings a condition of entry for students returning from the holidays
Paradoxically, masks, lockdowns and other Covid restrictions are believed to have robbed children of vital immunity to other seasonal bugs like flu and RSV, which may be why those bugs are causing such high rates of infection and hospitalization now.
There are also growing signs that other pandemic policies are starting to come back.
Last week, the US Government announced all passengers from China – which is suffering a major outbreak – would be tested upon entry, despite no proof that policy works either.
Concerns about a fresh Covid wave are ramping up after infections caused by a highly transmissible new variant doubled in a week.
XBB.1.5 — another spinoff of the Omicron strain — was behind 40 percent of positive cases across America in the last week of 2022, up from 22 percent the previous week, according to official data.
It has been dubbed the most antibody-resistant strain ever after acquiring mutations that make it less recognizable to vaccinated or previously infected immune systems, leading some experts to fear it could cause a new outbreak.
But experts told DailyMail.com they expect Americans to have ‘meaningful’ protection against the variant thanks to large population immunity.
They pointed to XBB.1.5 hotspots where hospital admissions and deaths have yet to rise.
There are around 400,000 Covid cases per week across the US now, compared to 4million this time last year, during the Omicron outbreak.
Weekly cases have been stable since late summer, a trend attributed to high levels of immunity in the population through vaccination and waves of infections.
But 22 states were still recording ‘very high’ flu activity in the week before Christmas – down from 26 the week before. Six states recorded the highest transmission levels, down from eight in early December.
America’s flu season came unseasonably early, although cases of both flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cratered for the second straight week just before Christmas — meaning the ‘tripledemic’ in America could soon reach its end.
RSV is also a few weeks ahead of the flu crisis. Cases peaked in November but rates remain very high. Both have led to hospitals, particularly pediatric hospitals, being overwhelmed.
The bacterial infection Strep A is also rising among children and has killed at least two in Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent advisory message about the infection before Christmas, notifying doctors and public health authorities of the situation.