Massachusetts Healthcare System Kicks off the New Year with Masks

A major Massachusetts healthcare system is kicking off the new year with mask mandates for some staffers in their facilities.

As of January 2, 2024, healthcare staff that interacts directly with patients will now be required to mask up. According to an October 31 press release from Mass General Brigham, respiratory illness season officially starts when over 1.9 percent of patients “presenting to emergency departments or outpatient clinics have symptoms of respiratory illness.”

However, when that percentage reaches 2.85 percent, certain mask mandates automatically go into place.

Per the release:

When respiratory virus illness in our community exceeds 2.85% (1.5 times the regional baseline) for two consecutive weeks, healthcare personnel will be required to use a facility-issued facemask in direct interactions with patients in clinical care locations, such as when entering a patient room or bay, or in other locations where care is delivered such as examining a patient on a stretcher.

While there would  be no mandate for patients and visitors at that point, they would be “strongly encouraged to wear a facility-issued facemask in those same situations when they are able to.”

According to the healthcare system, that 2.85 percent threshold has been reached.

“With the percentage of patients presenting at emergency rooms and outpatient facilities with respiratory illnesses exceeding 2.85 percent in the region, Mass General Brigham will begin requiring masking for healthcare staff interacting directly with patients on Jan. 2,” the healthcare giant said in a statement, emphasizing that it will still “strongly” encourage others to mask up as well.

File/A sign informs commuters that masks are encouraged at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Park Street Station in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Vanessa Leroy/Bloomberg via Getty)

That mask mandate will not be lifted until respiratory illness falls below 2.85 percent for a week.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, L.A. County has reinstated a mask mandate which is even more severe, applying to both staff and patients at healthcare facilities. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health cited “notable, yet not unexpected, increases in COVID-19 reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”

“Based on the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order posted on December 27, 2023, when the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County meets or exceeds the CDC’s Medium Level, all healthcare personnel, regardless of COVID-19 and influenza vaccination status, in licensed health care facilities that provide inpatient care are required to mask while in contact with patients or working in patient-care areas,” the department added, despite studies showing masks to be relatively ineffective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

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