(CNN) — In the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, signs telling everyone to cover up have disappeared from places like grocery stores and schools. But they remain in many medical offices, and a The study was published on Monday They say they might still be a good idea.

After the US public health emergency is over and many Americans are out of pandemic precautions, masks will continue to provide some protection, reducing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in communities such as close doctor-patient interactions. To the study, which reviewed the latest science on the quality of mask protection.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, also found no difference in protection. Between surgical masks and N95 respirators In the health care setting. N95s may be slightly more useful, but that wasn’t entirely clear from the research.

The researchers reviewed three randomized trials and 21 observational studies from around the world to understand what this says about the effectiveness of N95, surgical and cloth masks in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Some of the studies they used had limitations. For example, the evidence on surgical and cloth masks, or the use of multiple and inconsistent masks, is “insufficient,” the researchers wrote.

In an editorial published alongside the new study, Dr. Tara Palmore of the George Washington University School of Medicine and David Henderson of the National Institutes of Health noted that mask use was a politically charged topic during the invasion. They say masks should be considered a good safety measure for patients and healthcare workers because there is no gold standard evidence of their protection.

Laboratory studies show that in surgery Masks and respirators are good at limiting the spread of airborne and droplets from people who are sick with the flu, coronavirus, and other respiratory viruses. Although not 100% effective, they greatly reduce the amount of virus released when a person talks or coughs.

When both people wear masks, virus can still be passed from patient to worker or worker to patient, but it is rare.

Palmore and Henderson say a big reason people think masks should be worn in health care facilities is because people who work in these places are “known to come to work sick” for a variety of reasons.

Previous research It showed that half to two-thirds of those who work in health care facilities have some type of respiratory symptoms. People with pre-symptomatic symptoms can spread the virus, or if someone is sick it can be hard to tell if they’ve been vaccinated and have mild symptoms, so simply asking sick people to wear a mask may not stop the spread. .

“Unnecessarily exposing patients to mask-preventable infections appears to be in direct conflict with patient safety principles,” the opinion said. “For all of these reasons, we encourage masking during patient interactions.”

Dr. Sira Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International AffairsHealth systems agree it’s important to do everything they can to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including having staff wear masks during patient interactions — “especially among our most vulnerable patients, and sometimes it’s hard to know who it is.” vulnerable and immunocompromised,” says Madad, who was not involved in the new study.

She says people shouldn’t necessarily wear it in an elevator or hallway, but when you’re having a clinical encounter, it’s best to play it safe.

Now that people are used to wearing masks, she says, more healthcare workers should consider wearing them when flu season and RSV season come this fall.

“We all understand the importance and benefits of masks,” Madad said. “A culture of safety shows that you respect your patients.”

She added that if a patient wants a provider not to wear a mask, that’s fine, too, if it’s difficult for them to hear or understand someone else. But she says the default in clinical interactions should be masking.

Even though the COVID-19 public health emergency has been declared over, we still see more than 1,000 Americans die every day from this virus, which is still unacceptable. “It’s still very high, which means it’s still a threat,” Madad said. As much as we want to simplify, and it is not an emergency, but it is certainly a threat.

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