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Have Loosened Mask Mandates Impacted National Illness?

March 4, 2022  ||  BY KINSA'S EPIDEMIOLOGY TEAM

Have Loosened Mask Mandates Impacted National Illness? 

It’s been one week since the C.D.C. loosened its mask guidelines. Kinsa’s data shows that national respiratory illness activity is slightly decreasing, and remains below normal seasonal illness levels. 

Our data also shows that national respiratory illness activity among children 0-12 (which was increasing last week) has started to decrease, likely driving national illness levels down overall. As mask mandates are lifted in schools across the country, we’re closely monitoring illness activity in school-aged kids. 

New COVID cases in the US have decreased more than 90% from the peak in January. The C.D.C. reports that viruses that cause the common cold are increasing, as is rotavirus, which causes diarrhea, fever and vomiting, particularly among infants and young children. This is likely a result of people resuming more “normal” social behaviors (like decreased masking and being in closer contact) that allow for more transmission. The overall slight decline in illness observed is likely a combination of the steep drop in COVID cases paired with the more mild uptick in other respiratory viruses.

Illness Activity: Adults vs. Kids in Illinois

While Kinsa’s data currently shows national respiratory illness activity among the pediatric population starting to decline, it’s also showing illness activity rapidly increasing among 0-12 year olds in Illinois. 

Percent of Kinsa users with Respiratory Illness, 0-12 year olds (Illinois)

Since mid-February, respiratory illness activity among the pediatric population has nearly doubled, surpassing normal seasonal illness levels at the end of the month. In contrast, illness activity among adults is relatively low, and remains significantly below normal seasonal illness levels.

It isn't yet clear which viruses are driving illness activity among children in Illinois, but it's likely not COVID. In the coming weeks, we'll keep our eye on flu data, and other symptoms reported in the state to try to ascertain what's causing the increase.

Readers, please note: One input in Kinsa’s HealthWeather COVID risk is daily confirmed cases as collected from state public health authorities by Johns Hopkins University. On the HealthWeather map, some states (like Florida and Tennessee) may appear to have lower COVID risk than they actually have, due to recent state reporting delays/ lags.

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