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Joint statement on regional healthcare facilities’ masking requirement

Regional healthcare facilities across Puget Sound issued a statement today to continue requiring masks in acute care and outpatient clinic settings. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department joins public health agencies in King, Snohomish, Kitsap, San Juan, Clallam and Jefferson counties in support of our healthcare partners’ decision.

Wearing masks in high-risk areas like healthcare settings will protect the most vulnerable. Local or tribal governments, facilities, businesses and providers have the option to require masks in these or other settings.

“As we live with COVID-19 in our community, we also must learn to adjust our behavior based on disease activity and our surroundings,” said Nigel Turner, our Communicable Disease Control Division Director. “We fully support our healthcare partners in their decision to continue to require masks.”

Full statement by local health jurisdictions:

Statement on Regional Healthcare Facilities’ masking requirement to prevent spread of COVID-19

Healthcare facilities have been and continue to be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing patient and healthcare worker health and safety. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted primarily through the air by small airborne and large respiratory droplets. Masking in high-risk settings has been central to help limit 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 healthcare systems re-state their commitment to patient and healthcare worker safety by continuing masking requirements in their acute care and outpatient clinic facilities. This is important and appropriate because the current community burden of COVID-19 remains substantial and is underestimated by case reporting. The risk for severe disease associated with infection among vulnerable people who must visit health care settings (including older adults, people with weakened immune systems or many other underlying health conditions, pregnant woman and infants) is ongoing. In addition, there are no currently available preventive treatments for immunocompromise patients, and post-COVID-19 conditions and long-COVID 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 healthcare facilities and we fully support this unified regional approach to decrease the risk for spread of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities. A 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 reevaluated as we learn more about the direction and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic over time and about the potential benefits of masking routinely during future annual respiratory virus seasons during which SARS-CoV-2, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory viruses co-circulate. As our communities learn to live with COVID-19, focus will increasingly be on protecting those at highest risk for severe disease. Regional local health jurisdictions will continue to work with our healthcare partners to reduce the burden of disease both within healthcare facilities and the community at large.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of roughly 244 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at tpchd.org.

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