Sonoma County’s health officer, Dr. Karen Smith, has issued a new order requiring healthcare workers in the county to wear masks in patient care areas from November through April. This order is in response to concerns about increased transmission of respiratory viruses, including flu and COVID-19, during the late fall and early spring seasons.
While the widespread availability of COVID-19 testing and treatment, as well as high vaccination rates in the county, have reduced the need for year-round mandatory masking, the risk to vulnerable patients in healthcare settings remains significant. Patients and residents in healthcare and congregate facilities, particularly those who are young, pregnant, elderly, or have chronic health conditions, are at a greater risk for respiratory virus-related hospitalizations and death.
The order applies to various healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, infusion centers, dialysis clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. Workers in direct care, healthcare, and congregate facilities, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear surgical masks or approved respirators like the KN95, KF94, or N95. Cloth masks and face coverings like scarves or ski masks are not considered sufficient face masks in this context.
It is important to note that this order does not apply to patients or visitors to healthcare facilities. There are exceptions for workers who have medical or mental health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, as well as for individuals who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired. Additionally, situations where wearing a mask would create a risk related to work, as determined by workplace safety guidelines, are exempt.
The order will take effect on November 1, 2023, and remain in effect until April 30, 2024, although the health officer may adjust the dates based on respiratory virus surveillance data.
– CBS News