Health - Public Health News

Posted on: October 6, 2023

WCHCS Supports Regional Guidelines for Masking in Healthcare Settings

Multiple healthcare facilities in the region have joined together voluntarily to prioritize the health and safety of patients and employees by voluntarily adopting masking requirements for employees and patients when emergency department visits or hospital admissions indicate high levels of respiratory illness in our community. 

When regional respiratory illness activity crosses specified thresholds, healthcare facilities participating in the agreement will require masking by staff and patients in patient care areas. 

Whatcom County Health and Community Services joins other local health jurisdictions in supporting this data-informed decision by participating healthcare organizations to require masking in their facilities during times of increased respiratory illness activity.    

As described by the organizations that have signed on to the agreement, healthcare organizations will require masking when the first of the following thresholds is reached: 

  •  Emergency department visits with a diagnosis of influenza, RSV, or COVID-19 in the North Sound region reach designated thresholds 
  • CDC COVID-19 new hospital admissions levels reach “medium” in the relevant county.  

Participating organizations may choose to implement universal masking sooner, based on their own decision-making, and facilities may also set protective guidelines based on their unique needs, and the patients they serve. 

Masking is an effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory illness in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These masking practices will help protect people in healthcare settings, particularly those who are at high risk such as older adults, those with chronic disease and immunocompromising conditions, pregnant people, infants, as well as those who experience inequities in health care.

“At WCHCS, we are glad to support healthcare organizations in this important effort to promote data-driven safety measures in their facilities,” said Dr. Amy Harley, Co-Health Officer, Whatcom County Health and Community Services. “We plan to help ensure that our local healthcare partners have access to the data they need to participate in this effort if desired. Using masking to limit the spread of respiratory infections in healthcare will help protect older persons and those with underlying conditions that are often disproportionately impacted by serious outcomes when infected. It’s also an important measure to protect health care workers and maintain healthcare capacity as we approach a busy virus season.“ 

While this strategy applies to healthcare facilities, we are also dedicated to keeping the public informed. When Whatcom sees a significant increase in respiratory illness we will let the community know and provide recommendations to reduce the risk of illness to you and your family.   

 For more information about the joint agreement, visit Northwest Healthcare Response Network.

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