Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) is no longer requiring the use of masks for the prevention of COVID-19 transmission beginning October 12, 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance regarding masking and was one of the primary reasons for the change. LRH President and CEO Jason Harrington said decreased transmission rates, improved vaccination rates, increased natural immunity, and lower hospitalization rates have also impacted the decision to discontinue masking.
The hospital will assess various indicators of COVID prevalence every two weeks to determine if masking will be required periodically. Those indicators include the CDC’s Community Transmission Rates, LRH rate of COVID-19 positive inpatients, LRH employee absences rate due to COVID-19 infection, and LRH Emergency Department and Lakes Regional Family Medicine positive tests rate.
Care provided to COVID-19 inpatients will continue to be safe and thorough. Patients who enter LRH with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be asked to mask within the facility and will be isolated to minimize employee and patient exposure. Those patients will be masked as they are transported through the facility to a private room specially designed to prevent microorganisms within the air to travel outside the room and into other areas within the hospital. Staff caring for COVID-19 positive patients will take several steps to minimize transmission, such as wearing N95 masks with eye protection, full gowns, and gloves.
“Although many hospitals in our area have reduced masking in the last several months, we’ve taken a conservative approach throughout the COVID pandemic to reduce transmission, and will continue to do so,” said Harrington. “The available data and CDC guidance does not warrant a requirement of mask use at this time, and we believe our practices will ensure our staff, visitors, and patients will continue to be safe and we will monitor that frequently. We will continue to evaluate these guidelines in areas where we see our most at-risk patients and will respond in a way to best protect those patients and our staff. If you feel more secure wearing a mask, we encourage you to do so. If you would prefer your healthcare provider do the same, please feel free to ask.”
If masking becomes required for a period, LRH will have signs and masks at hospital entrances to alert the community. LRH will also communicate it to the public via Facebook, Instagram and news releases.