Hospital masking picks up steam

More health systems have implemented mask rules in recent weeks amid an uptick in respiratory virus activity and growing concerns over potential capacity issues this winter.

This virus season marks the first since the CDC loosened national mask guidelines, putting the onus on hospitals and health systems to independently determine when and how to implement masking policies, if at all. 

Hospital masking took many different forms this fall, with some organizations implementing blanket mandates for all patients, staff and visitors, and others taking a more flexible approach, limiting masking to certain patient care locations or stakeholders. Other systems opted not to bring back masks at all. 

COVID-19 admissions have risen more than 50% over the past four weeks, while flu admissions have jumped 200%, according to the CDC. Many emergency departments and intensive care units nationwide are feeling the strain. As such, more health systems are reinstating masking to help prevent additional virus admissions. 

Johnson City, Tenn.-based Ballad Health implemented mask rules for employees in clinical areas effective Dec. 21, according to NBC affiliate WCYB. Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Pittsburgh-based UPMC also implemented mask rules this week for all patients, staff and visitors. Earlier in December, BJC Healthcare in St. Louis reinstated mask rules for staff, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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