Hospitals split on visitor masking policy in Monroe County

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The CDC has modified its mask guidelines for hospitals and nursing homes.

STROUDSBURG, Pa. — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has urged everyone to wear a mask, but now officials are easing recommendations for hospitals and nursing homes.

It’s something Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, the senior vice president of medical and academic affairs at St. Luke’s, says is too generic.

“What I call the CDC policy is ‘mask confusion’ because what can happen over here is they can tell you, you don’t have to do it one week, then the next week, you have to do it, and then the following week you may not have to do it, and clearly that is a total separation from what reality should be. So we prefer consistency,” Dr. Jahre said.

At St. Luke’s University Health Network, Monroe Campus in Stroud Township, visitors stopped masking months ago, but health care professionals are still keeping them on.

“For us, what we are saying in our health care workers when they are engaging with patients in a hospital who are at the most high risk, are going to continue to wear masks. This is particularly true when you’re doing with immunosuppressed patients or patients who are highly vulnerable,” Dr. Jahre said.

Previously, in order to ditch masks, the CDC used to require community transmission to be considered as low risk.

But now, the CDC says a hospital and nursing homes can make its own decision if it’s located in an area that’s not considered high risk.

Officials with Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono say the CDC’s decision doesn’t change anything for them right now.

In a statement to Newswatch 16, Dr. Alex Benjamin, chief infection control and prevention officer, said:

“The CDC continues to recommend that health care facilities base their masking decisions on local transmission levels of COVID-19.  As the communities we serve continue to have high transmission levels, we continue to require masks in our patient-facing areas.”

Dr. Jahre is also concerned with the uncertainty of the fall and winter seasons, as well as flu transmission. He encourages everyone who hasn’t yet to get the first series of the COVID-19 shot.

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