VCU Health announces rollback of mask guidelines, following other area hospitals
HCA and Bon Secours also mask-optional in all hospitals
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - VCU Health revised its masking guideline across the health system. This comes as other health systems in the Greater Richmond region also lift mask requirements.
According to a VCU Health release, masking will now be optional in all VCU Health-owned, operated, and leased facilities, effective immediately.
The announcement goes on to list certain exceptions, including patient interactions at VCU Medical Center and high-risk patient care areas. These instances include:
- When entering patient rooms in hospitals and clinics
- When triaging patients or retrieving patients from waiting rooms
- When registering, rooming, or escorting patients through the clinic or facility, including patient transport
- Patient or visitor approaches the nursing station
VCU Health says this new masking policy falls under recommendations from the CDC.
While VCU Medical Center will still require masks, hospitals under the umbrella of both Bon Secours and HCA Healthcare stopped requiring masks for any healthcare workers unless they are around a potential COVID-19 patient. This includes Chippenham Hospital, Johnston-Willis Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital.
“We’re in a comfortable place for that, but a very, very different place than we were even this time last year,” Richmond-Henrico Health Districts Director Dr. Elaine Perry said.
Dr. Perry says these changes come as COVID-19 deaths and cases in Virginia are on a steep decline.
“It’s been a fair number of weeks now that we really have seen a very consistent trend of numbers getting lower,” she said.
Since the end of 2022, there has been an 88% decrease in weekly COVID-19 cases.
Over the last six weeks, the weekly death totals in Virginia were all in the single digits, which hasn’t happened since the start of the pandemic.
“I do feel like we should at least feel comfortable celebrating a little bit. Again, not declare total victory against COVID-19, but to say we are in a different place,” Dr. Perry said. “There are things that we can do differently than we were doing, you know, a year or even six to nine months ago.”
Many are optimistic that this represents the turning of a new leaf, but Dr. Perry says we shouldn’t get too comfortable even though the spread of COVID-19 has weakened.
“I don’t think we should say that ‘okay, we’re done. We’re not going to deal with it again’ because we do know that virus does continue to change. We do have different variants that develop over time,” she said.
HCA Healthcare Statement to NBC12:
“As of last month, all HCA Virginia facilities have transitioned to masking-optional in all areas of the hospital (both patient care and non-patient care) for colleagues, providers, patients, visitors, etc.”
Bon Secours Statement to NBC12:
“Bon Secours updated our masking guidance in September of 2022. At that time, based on CDC guidance and the latest scientific data to help inform the best way to care for our patients and support our associates and clinicians, Bon Secours made the decision to no longer require masks at all times within our facilities. Masks for both patients and clinicians are optional, however, strongly recommended.
There are a few exceptions to that rule, for example, when patients are suspected of or seeking care for COVID-19, we require masks. In addition, our clinicians or associates providing care for patients suspected of or confirmed with COVID-19 continue to follow all standard and transmission-based precautions, including masking and any additional PPE that may be necessary. We continue to follow infection prevention protocols and monitor Virginia’s COVID-19 patient dashboard and respiratory illness activity within our communities and will continue to adjust masking requirements as needed when community transmission levels are high, as defined by the CDC.
While we continue to evolve our COVID-19 policies, our priority remains the safety our associates, patients, and community. Masks will continue to be an important tool, along with vaccinations, to keep people healthy and safe. Masks are still readily available to all patients and visitors who enter our facilities. Additionally, our associates and clinicians can still wear a mask if they choose. In addition, all healthcare professionals will continue to follow infection prevention protocols and health systems will continue to monitor Virginia’s COVID-19 patient dashboard and respiratory illness activity within our communities.
We are grateful to our associates, patients, and visitors for their cooperation in following important public health measures during the pandemic to protect one another.”
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