CMS to hospitals: Let patients, visitors wear N95s

U.S. health officials are poised to clarify guidelines on masking practices in hospitals after reports surfaced that facilities were asking patients and visitors to swap N95 masks for surgical masks, three sources familiar with the matter told Politico.

CMS is planning to notify hospitals that patients should be allowed to wear N95s, according to Mia Ives-Rublee, a disability advocate with the liberal think tank Center for American Progress who met with federal officials March 18. The agency also wants to ensure patients know how to file a complaint against a facility that requests someone take off their mask or fails to follow CDC guidelines. CMS is slated to discuss the topic with state survey agencies this week, sources told Politico.

The talks come after a March 16 Politico report found hospitals across the country often ask patients and visitors to replace or cover their N95 masks with a surgical mask in line with CDC guidelines, which public health experts say are outdated.

During the March 18 meeting, one CDC official said the agency does not recommend broad use of N95s because many people do not wear them correctly, according to Ms. Ives-Rublee. 

The CDC did not immediately respond to Politico's request for comment, and CMS declined to comment. 

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