California Hospital Reinstates Masking Policy After COVID-19 Outbreak Among Staff, Patients

By A.J. Plunkett

A California hospital has reinstated its masking policy after more than a dozen staffers as well as some patients were diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a statement from the hospital’s parent company, Kaiser Permanente.

“Recently at our Santa Rosa Hospital, more than a dozen out of our approximately 3,500 staff members and some patients have tested positive for COVID-19. In response, effective immediately, physicians and staff are required to mask in the Santa Rosa Hospital and Emergency Department while providing direct patient care. We are requiring all visitors to mask upon entrance to the hospital and throughout their visit,” according to the statement.

The CDC relaxed its recommendations on universal masking in September while also advising hospitals and other healthcare organizations to keep track of community transmissions to guide whether or not they asked patients or staff to continue to mask.

Many local and state public health departments have slowed or ceased tracking COVID-19 cases as incidents have declined. However, COVID-19 remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. and infection control experts have warned that cases could rise again, particularly in the coming fall as people return to primarily indoor activities.

Kaiser Permanente said its decision to reinstate masking was to protect staff and patients.

“Kaiser Permanente Northern California is committed to protecting the safety of our members, patients, employees, physicians and visitors. We monitor and adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local regulations regarding masking and other public health interventions. These guidelines recently changed on April 3, 2023, to no longer require but continue to recommend the use of masks for members, patients, visitors, and staff at all healthcare facilities.  Kaiser Permanente has adhered to that guidance, and also has infection control guidelines for an outbreak situation.”

The health system also encouraged patients and others to continue to monitor themselves for symptoms and to test if they began to feel ill.

In addition, “we urge everyone to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations/boosters, which continue to protect against severe illness and death.”

“We appreciate our staff, members, patients, and visitors following all masking and other infection prevention requirements in our facilities to help keep our communities and each other safe.”

A.J. Plunkett is editor of Inside Accreditation & Quality, an HCPro publication.