A handful of hospitals in multiple states announced this week that COVID-19 mask mandates will be reimplemented as officials cite an increase in COVID-19 cases.
On Sept. 15, the Baystate Health system in Massachusetts announced that it would require masks for anyone entering patient rooms or patient care areas. That includes doctors, nurses, visitors, and patients, it said.
"In order to protect the safety and health of our patients, visitors, and employees, we must re-institute the requirement that face masks be worn by employees and visitors in all direct patient care areas in Baystate Health hospitals and the Cancer Center, effective immediately," the announcement said. "Our team will be continually monitoring the state of COVID-19 in our communities so that our policies can adjust based on the risk assessment.”
Also on Sept. 15, the University of Chicago Medical Center in Illinois told CBS Chicago and other local media that mask mandates will be in effect for workers who are in direct contact with patients. Employees who don't have symptoms don't have to wear masks in certain areas such as workrooms, public areas, and break rooms, and during meetings, officials said.
“Based on our internal data, COVID cases amongst employees are doubling every week, and patient cases have increased in all locations,” Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the hospital, said in a memo, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In Pennsylvania, Mount Nittany Health stated on Sept. 14 that it would mandate that employees wear masks while engaging with patients. The mandate will run until Sept. 29, according to a news release cited by a local outlet, and it doesn't include a mandate for visitors or patients.
“Mount Nittany Health will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as appropriate,” the hospital said. “If patients or visitors have symptoms of COVID-19 or respiratory illness, Mount Nittany Health asks that they please take the appropriate precautions and kindly mask in Mount Nittany Health facilities.”
At about the same time, Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May County, New Jersey, confirmed that it would also be reinstating a mask mandate. There's no mandate for visitors or patients, officials said.
"In response to an increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID at Cape Regional Medical Center as well as community members with COVID, Cape Regional Medical Center team members are wearing masks when providing direct patient care," a hospital spokesperson told a local New Jersey station.
Last month, a doctor with Tufts Medicine said that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases shouldn't be of concern.
Other MandatesIn August, UMass Memorial Health in Massachusetts confirmed in a statement that it would reimpose masking for staff. Patients and visitors are exempt from the mandate, it stated.
"We have continued to see a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19-positive employees over the past two weeks, which has led to exposures of both fellow caregivers and patients," the statement read. "In response to this, as a protective measure for our staff and patients, effective immediately, we are requiring mandatory caregiver masking for all patient encounters in all licensed clinical areas."
A Kaiser Permanente location in Santa Rosa, California, stated that it would again require masks because of what it said was a rise in COVID-19 tests as of Aug. 22. However, days later, the hospital clarified that the mandate applies only to staff and physicians, not visitors and patients.
Kaiser told a local newspaper in Santa Rosa that it's still "strongly encouraging masks for patients, members, and visitors in the hospital and medical offices in the Santa Rosa Service Area in response to this latest increase in COVID-19 cases." But face coverings aren't required for those people, it stated.
Several hospitals in upstate New York announced in August that masks will be mandatory for not only staff but also patients and visitors. They include United Health Services in Binghamton, Auburn Community Hospital in Auburn, Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, and Samaritan Health facilities in Watertown.