The CDC says some nursing homes and hospitals no longer need to require a universal mask

The CDC says some nursing homes and hospitals no longer need to require a universal mask

In addition to communities seeing “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended a blanket call for Americans in hospitals and nursing homes to wear masks indoors.

The change, one of several released Friday afternoon in the agency’s guidance on COVID-19 infection control for health care workers, marks one of the latest sets of revisions in a sweeping effort that began in August to revise the CDC’s virus recommendations.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the agency had urged “everyone” to wear “source control” such as well-fitting masks or respirators while in healthcare settings.

Now, the CDC says facilities in just over a quarter of counties can “opt out of requiring” all doctors, patients and visitors to cover.

“Updates have been made to reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC’s new guidance states.

Initially, the agency made only a narrow set of exceptions to non-coverage indoors. For example, Americans visiting patients could “choose not to wear source control” if they were all up to date on their vaccines when they were alone together in a room.

Doctors and nurses who were up-to-date on their shots could remove their masks when in parts of their hospital where they don’t see patients, such as the kitchen or staff conference room.

Instead, after Friday’s revisions, the agency now has exceptions for when coverage “remains recommended.” These include situations such as during an outbreak between patients or “when caring for patients who are moderately to severely immunocompromised”.

Holly Harmon, senior vice president of the American Health Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, celebrated the decision in a statement.

“While our commitment to infection prevention and control continues, adjusting our COVID protocols is a recognition of the current stage of this pandemic as well as the importance of quality of life for our nation’s seniors,” said Harmon.

Harmon said the group, which claims to be the largest association representing long-term care facilities, looks forward to its “continued collaboration” with the CDC and other public health officials on the guidance for COVID-19.

“After more than two years, residents will be able to see more of the smiling faces of their caregivers and our dedicated staff will have a moment to breathe,” Harmon said.

The new guidance comes as the US has seen a weeks-long slowdown in the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and nursing home infections in most parts of the country.

But for now, the CDC says that COVID-19 counts haven’t improved enough in most communities for hospitals and nursing homes to drop coverage.

CDC’s guidance for the general public is now based on the “Community Levels” assessments released earlier this year, which factor in hospitalization levels to arrive at weekly assessments. Just 3.5% of Americans now live in counties at “high” “community levels,” the CDC says.

In healthcare settings, the CDC says it will still rely on its original “Community Transmission” benchmarks. By this measure of reported cases and positive tests, 73% of counties are currently rated at “high” risk.

“Community transmission is the metric currently recommended to guide selected practices in healthcare settings to allow for early intervention, before there is a strain on the healthcare system, and to better protect people seeking care in these settings ,” the CDC states in its guidance.

The CDC also strengthened some of its recommendations, reflecting what is now known about the Omicron variant.

One such tweak overturns longstanding recommendations not to test most people after close contact if they have recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days.

Instead, the CDC says that testing in these cases “should be considered for those who have recovered in the previous 31-90 days.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that people can be reinfected by Omicron variant infections within 90 days of recovery.

A report published by the CDC from doctors in France counted people who had been infected up to three times within months by different strains of the Omicron variant.

“Our findings show that the time between confirmed primary infections and reinfections with different Omicron subvariants is often shorter than the 90-day definition of reinfections used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the study authors wrote before the CDC change its direction. .

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