Hospitals Return To Mask Policies After State Guidelines

BERLIN – Local hospital systems are reinstating masking policies following an increase in reported respiratory viruses.

In recent days, both Atlantic General Hospital and Health System and TidalHealth have reinstituted masking policies. Officials say the change is in response to respiratory viruses circulating within the community.

“Due to the rise in respiratory illnesses circulating in our region and Maryland’s current respiratory virus-associated hospitalization rate, Atlantic General Hospital and Health System has made the decision to implement a masking requirement for all associates, students and volunteers while in patient care areas, regardless of vaccination status,” said Bonita Conner, AGH’s director of quality and infection prevention. “This decision was based upon current Maryland Department of Health recommendations and updated guidelines will be followed as they are provided. Additionally, all staff are required to maintain daily self-screening and are not to come to work with cold and/or flu-like symptoms.”

Last week, the Maryland Department of Health, in response to an increase in respiratory virus-associated hospitalizations, issued new guidance to all healthcare facilities in the state.

The agency reports, “Broad facility-wide source control should be implemented in all patient care areas and patient-facing healthcare settings, including outpatient and long-term care, when the statewide combined weekly respiratory virus-associated hospitalization rate (as calculated by CDC​) meets or exceeds 10 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.” At the time of its recommendation, the respiratory virus-associated hospitalization rate was 12.9 per 100,000 residents.

To that end, local healthcare systems have reinstituted masking requirements for its facilities. At TidalHealth, for example, masking requirements will be in effect when visiting patient rooms.

“In an effort to protect the most vulnerable of our population from close contact with persons that may be contagious but not yet have symptoms, we are requiring masking at the patient bedside and in patient rooms,” a statement from TidalHealth reads. “The increase in all respiratory viruses in hospitals and our community is being evaluated on a daily basis and masking rules may change with the infection percentages to maintain the safety of patients, staff and the community.”

TidalHealth reports that visitors may also be asked to wear a mask when accompanying patients to outpatient services at all TidalHealth locations, including all areas of its hospitals in Seaford, Del., and Salisbury, Md.

“If you are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of an upper respiratory illness, we kindly ask that you not visit at this time,” the statement reads. “Be sure to wash and sanitize your hands regularly.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.