Joint statement on masking requirement for regional health facilities – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

Puget Sound Regional Health Services issued a statement that they continue to require masks in urgent care and outpatient clinics.

The regional consensus ensures a consistent and clear message that these healthcare facilities prioritize the health and safety of both their patients and employees. See the full statement below.

Local health jurisdictions in our region, including Public Health – Seattle and King County, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Snohomish County Health Department, Kitsap County Public Health, San Juan Health Department and Clallam County Public Health Departments and The Jeffersons fully support the decision by healthcare organizations to require masking in their facilities at this time to reduce the ongoing risk of COVID-19.

“No one should get a preventable infection because they should seek health care.” Masking is an important way we can make healthcare visits safer for many people in our community of all ages who are at increased risk of serious infections. Public Health – Seattle and King County (and the Washington Department of Health) continue to recommend masks for patients, healthcare providers and visitors to healthcare facilities. The decision by regional healthcare providers to require masking is consistent with our recommendation.”

– Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County.

Statement on the masking requirement of regional healthcare facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Healthcare facilities have been and continue to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing the health and safety of patients and healthcare workers. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted primarily through the air through small airborne droplets and large respiratory droplets. Masking in high-risk settings is central to limiting the spread of COVID-19 (as well as other respiratory viruses), along with other interventions such as vaccinations and attention to indoor air quality.

Today, local and regional health systems reaffirm their commitment to patient and health care worker safety by continuing masking requirements in their urgent care and outpatient clinics. This is important and appropriate as the current burden of COVID-19 in the community remains significant and is underestimated by case reporting. The risk of severe infection-related illness among vulnerable people who need to visit healthcare facilities (including the elderly, people with weakened immune systems or many other underlying health problems, pregnant women and infants) continues. In addition, no preventive treatments are currently available for immunocompromised patients, and post-COVID-19 conditions and prolonged COVID-19 are additional significant but poorly measured health impacts of COVID-19.

For these reasons, local health jurisdictions in the Puget Sound region continue to recommend masking in health care facilities, and we fully support this unified regional approach to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 in health care facilities. The regional consensus ensures a consistent and clear message that these healthcare facilities prioritize the health and safety of both their patients and employees.

Masking recommendations and requirements for healthcare facilities should be reviewed as we learn more about the direction and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over time and the potential benefits of masking routinely during future annual respiratory virus seasons in which SARS-CoV-2, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory viruses co-circulate. As our communities learn to live with COVID-19, the focus will increasingly be on protecting those at highest risk of severe illness. Regional local health jurisdictions will continue to work with our health care partners to reduce the burden of disease both within health care facilities and in the community at large.

Refreshing the masks

  • Use the best quality and best fitting mask you can get.
  • The masks that are best for filtering the virus are N95 and KN95, along with KF94 masks.
  • For best protection, wear a mask with a tight fit around the cheeks and nose.

Masks protect the wearer and other people from contracting COVID-19. When a person talks, coughs, sneezes or even breathes, they expose those around them to respiratory droplets and even smaller particles called aerosols. Masks help prevent the spread of particles that contain the virus. Masks can be useful in situations where someone has been infected but has no symptoms of COVID-19, and may inadvertently spread the virus.

Originally published on 3/24/2023

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