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Swedish Regional Director of Infection Control Evan Sylvester offers advice for masking decisions under Washington state's guidelines.
As of March 12, face masks are no longer required in many indoor settings, but all Swedish locations require universal masking.
Community transmission rates remain high, so we should exercise caution with masking decisions.
Kindness, respect and acceptance are critical as we adjust to changes.
It’s now been a little over two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID transmission levels dropping and spring approaching, many among us are ready to move forward and start anew. To help us think about doing this safely, we spoke with Evan Sylvester, regional director of infection control at Swedish, about what this means and how to apply the current masking guidance for the safety of ourselves and our families.
“As of March 12, face masks are no longer required in many indoor settings, however some locations still require masking,” says Evan. “For example, all Swedish locations require universal masking, hand hygiene, physical distancing and screening protocols for all persons entering our facilities. COVID-19 vaccination is also strongly recommended for all visitors entering Swedish facilities. More information is available about our visitor policy is available on our Swedish blog.”
“While the community risk rates have decreased, community transmission rates still remain high in many locations,” Evan points out. “So, we absolutely should be exercising caution and care when thinking about our masking decisions. We are in a really critical period around our numbers, and we can help keep them down by masking and following protocols that keep transmission rates moving in the right direction, especially by getting vaccinated and staying up to date with vaccinations.”
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee initially announced that mask orders—which cover grocery stores, childcare facilities, gyms, bars and other indoor establishments—would lift on March 21. After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced revisions to federal guidelines on face coverings, Gov. Inslee moved to Washington state’s rollback to March 12.
“Although the CDC has issued new criteria for loosening community restrictions to combat COVID-19 based on these transmission levels, we need to remember that these criteria of COVID-19 community levels do not apply to healthcare settings,” Evan emphasizes “Swedish will continue to monitor transmission using the health care facility tool to adjust our restrictions. For that reason, remember that masks are still required in health care and medical facilities and on public transportation.”
“The future is unknown, but it does look like we will have a trough in transmission levels for some time and masks can come off in some situations and locations with lower risk,” he adds.
You may want to consider wearing a mask in situations where there may be overcrowding or if you are around people at higher risk of severe illness, or if you are at higher risk of severe illness or complications from COVID. Health care workers that care for high-risk patients may also want to still wear their mask in public in certain situations where exposure risk is higher to help keep their patients safer.
We’re all undoubtedly moving through a period of change and adjustment. In addition to keeping up with the latest information and doing our part to keep our communities healthy, Evan emphasizes that kindness and understanding are a critical piece of this work as we move into another new normal.
“We should keep in mind that we are all coming at this from different perspectives: some are excited to not mask, while others have uncertainty and reservations,” advises Evan. “Regardless of your mask preferences in public, please set a tone of understanding, acceptance and kindness as we all adjust to changes in our environment.”
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