CDC no longer recommends universal masking in healthcare facilities

(The Hill) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer recommending universal masking in healthcare facilities unless the facilities are in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.

The agency quietly issued the updates as part of a revision of its infection control guidance for health workers released late Friday afternoon. It marks a major departure from the agency’s previous recommendation for universal masking.

“Updates have been made to reflect the high levels of immunity generated by vaccines and infections and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC’s new guidance reads.

Now, the CDC says facilities in regions without high transmission “may choose not to require all doctors, patients, and visitors to wear a mask.” The transmission differs from the community levels that CDC uses to govern non-healthcare facilities.

Community transmission refers to measurements of the presence and spread of SARS-CoV-2, the CDC said.

“It is the metric currently recommended to guide select practices in healthcare facilities to enable earlier intervention before the healthcare system is burdened and to better protect the individuals seeking help in those facilities,” said CDC.

Currently, about 73 percent of the US is experiencing “high” transmission rates.

The community levels “place a focus on action on the impact of COVID-19 related to hospitalizations and health care system burdens while considering community transmission,” CDC said.

Only 7 percent of counties are considered high risk, while nearly 62 percent of counties are classified as low.

Additionally, the new guidance includes a list of exceptions where people may choose to mask, compared to the previous guidance, which included a list of exceptions where masking was not recommended.

While a mask is not required everywhere, a provider working in a part of the facility where a COVID-19 outbreak is occurring or when caring for immunocompromised patients should wear a mask.

When transmission rates are high, covering is recommended for everyone in a healthcare facility when in areas of the healthcare facility where they may encounter patients.

Providers can choose not to wear masks when they are in “well-defined areas” that are not accessible to patients, such as B. Meeting rooms for employees.

Public health experts said the updates will result in fewer people in hospitals and care homes wearing masks, putting patients and providers at risk.

Megan Ranney, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted that the new guidance could result in sites of significant transmission unmasking sick patients who have not yet been tested for COVID-19 right next to the elderly, chemopatients, those with lung disease and vulnerable pregnant women.

“This nuanced ‘hit your cake and eat it too’ approach hasn’t worked once during the pandemic. People hear “no more masks!” tweeted Jerome Adams, who served as surgeon general during the Trump administration. CDC no longer recommends universal masking in healthcare facilities

Tom Vazquez

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