Universal Masking Can Be Dropped In Some Nursing Homes, Hospitals: CDC

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed its universal masking advice for nursing homes and hospitals unless these health care facilities are located in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates. 

The modification is included in updated guidelines issued by the CDC on Friday. US News said that due to high COVID rates, only approximately a fourth of U.S. counties now come under the revised guidelines, which would allow doctors, patients, and visitors to forego masks. 

Earlier in the epidemic, everyone in health care facilities was required to wear masks or respirators that fit properly. Later, CBS News stated that guests may “opt out of wearing source control” provided they had up-to-date vaccinations and were alone with persons they were visiting. A second exception let staff members with up-to-date vaccinations to remove their masks when away from patients. 

The updated CDC guidance indicates that “updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and preventative strategies.” 

Now, masking “remains advised” during a patient outbreak or “when caring for moderately to severely immunocompromised patients.” Since August, the CDC has been adjusting its recommendations due to a decline in hospitalizations and nursing care infections. 

Despite the fact that only 3.5% of Americans reside in communities with what the CDC considers to be high levels based on hospitalization rates, healthcare facilities must continue to adhere to earlier “community transmission” guidelines, which include measures for reported cases and test positivity. Using this metric, approximately 73% of U.S. counties remain high-risk, according to CBS News. 

In its latest advice, the CDC stated, “Community transmission is the metric now suggested to guide select actions in healthcare settings to allow for early intervention, before there is a burden on the healthcare system, and to better safeguard individuals seeking care in these settings.” 

On Friday, certain limitations were relaxed while others were tightened. This includes recommendations that people with a history of COVID infection who are exposed to the virus within 90 days of a previous infection do not need to be tested. Now, recommendations state that testing should be considered for those who have recovered within the previous 31-90 days. 

Emerging research suggests that Omicron variant reinfection is possible, even numerous times within a three-month period. The authors of a French study published last week wrote, “Our findings indicate that the time between confirmed primary infections and reinfections with different Omicron subvariants is frequently shorter than the 90-day definition of reinfections used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 

Holly Harmon, senior vice president of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, applauded the improvements in masking. “While our commitment to infection prevention and control remains, adjusting COVID protocols involves acknowledging the current stage of this pandemic and the significance of quality of life for our nation’s elders,” Harmon told CBS News. 



“After more than two years, residents will be able to see more of their caregivers’ happy faces, and our devoted staff will have a chance to catch their breath,” said Harmon. 

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