NORFOLK, Va. — The health care systems that serve Hampton Roads announced Monday that they will drop their mask mandates, over three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The systems making the change are Bon Secours, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Health System, Riverside Health System and Sentara Healthcare.
The lifting will be effective Tuesday, March 21, meaning patients, visitors and team members won't have to wear a mask at all times within the healthcare facilities.
“We feel this is a safe time to do that," Sentara Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Joel Bundy said. "Both COVID and flu rates have been decreasing and hospital admissions have been decreasing for both of those. So between that, and between the decreased harm from the current COVID subvariant, we believe very strongly that it is safe to relax masking, but we will continue to monitor.”
People seeking treatment for a respiratory illness, such as COVID-19 or the flu, will still need to wear a mask. Healthcare workers will also continue to follow standard and transmission-based precautions during all patient encounters.
“Let's say we are taking care of a patient who had measles, or the flu, or they had an active covid infection," Dr. Bundy said. "That employee would continue to mask and that is not any different than what we did before the pandemic.”
Despite the lifting of the requirement, the systems will make masks available to patients and visitors who want to use them. The systems said they will continue to monitor for COVID-19 and other respiratory illness activity in the community.
"We are grateful to our healthcare colleagues, patients, and visitors for their cooperation in following important public health measures during the pandemic to protect one another," spokespeople for the systems said.