February 25, 2022
CDC Relaxes Masking Guidance; Mask Requirement Remains in Place for Hospitals, Other Health Care Settings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced a major adjustment of its federal masking guidance pertaining to the COVID-19 public health emergency, including changes to the metrics that communities are urged to use when determining whether to require face coverings in indoor settings. In addition to case counts, the new guidelines also will measure the local severity of disease, while factoring in hospitalizations and hospital capacity.
AHA is providing members with talking points on the issue of masks in hospitals that can be used when engaging with local media, visitors and the public. You can view the talking points at the end of this document.
Under the new guidance, CDC establishes the following levels for measuring which communities are considered substantial or high transmission for COVID-19, with a significant focus placed on measuring the impact to the local health care system:
- Low, in which there is a limited impact of COVID-19 on the local health care system, with a low level of severe disease
- Medium, in which there is some impact on the local health care system and high-risk individuals may want to take steps to protect their risk of exposure
- High, with the potential for the most pronounced impact and strain placed on the local health care system, in which all members of the community are urged to wear masks in public indoor settings
CDC says that based on its new metrics, currently nearly 70% of the U.S. population and more than 50% of counties are in locations with a low or medium COVID-19 community level. CDC continues to urge people to base decisions on what precautionary measures to take on their location, health status and risk tolerance. However, regardless of the level, CDC continues to recommend that people eligible for COVID-19 vaccination be vaccinated.
Hospitals and other health care settings are not subject to these masking recommendations, meaning regardless of a community’s status under the new metrics, local health care settings should continue to require visitors to wear masks indoors.
- Hospitals and health systems have a solemn duty to prioritize the health and well-being of their patients, many of whom are immunocompromised and/or severely sick and weakened and are at a high risk of a severe reaction should they get COVID-19.
- In order to protect their patients during this pandemic, hospitals and health systems have implemented various mitigation measures, including universal masking for visitors, staff and all the patients who can be.
- The science overwhelmingly shows that masking helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, both for those who wear the mask and those who spend time around those who are masked.
- Masking is an especially important mitigation tool since many people who have COVID-19, especially the omicron variant, do not have any symptoms and may not know they even have the virus and are spreading it to others.
- All this is why the CDC continues to recommend universal masking in health care settings and why many hospitals and health systems will continue to have masking policies in place even while other settings (such as restaurants, office buildings, gyms, etc.) in the community drop them.
- The hospital field will continue to follow the science and take the steps necessary to protect our patients, especially the most vulnerable.
If you have questions, please contact AHA at 800-424-4301.