As cases of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus continue to rise, some states have resumed masking in health care settings. The ADA is encouraging dentists everywhere, but particularly in these areas, to be aware of local and state updates in masking guidelines.
Health care systems in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, California and Washington D.C are implementing mask mandates amid the surge. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that more than 29,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred across the U.S. from Dec. 17 to 23 — a 16% increase from the previous week.
In Illinois, Cook County Health, Endeavor Health and Rush University Medical Center will require all visitors, patients and staff to wear masks in certain areas onsite. Berkshire Health System in Massachusetts announced it will require masks due to an increase in respiratory illnesses. New York City reinstated a mask mandate in all of its public hospitals and health centers.
Additionally, once COVID-19 hospitalizations hit the “medium” level in Los Angeles County, it reinstated masking in health care settings, per the city’s regulations. Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital recently announced it will require masks for inpatients and staff working in inpatient areas. UW Health and UnityPoint Health-Meriter in Wisconsin also announced plans to require all staff, patients and visitors to wear masks in clinic settings.
The CDC’s universal masking recommendations have not shifted since they were issued in May 2023, when it recommended masking based on local COVID-19 hospital admission levels.
Even when local or state healthcare facilities do not require masking for source control, dental offices can encourage patients and team members to use a mask or respirator (ex. N95) based on county risk levels and personal preferences.
At all COVID-19 hospital admission levels, the CDC recommends staying up to date on vaccination, maintaining ventilation improvements, avoiding contact with people who have COVID-19, following COVID-19 isolation recommendations and talking with health care providers about prevention actions for those at high risk of getting sick.
At medium and high COVID-19 hospital admission levels, the CDC recommends those at high risk of getting sick to wear a high-quality mask or respirator when indoors in public.
At high COVID-19 hospital admission levels, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask or respirator and considering avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public for those at high risk of getting sick.
Dentists should stay up to date on masking mandates in their areas by contacting their public health department to confirm guidance for dental offices.
For more information, visit the ADA’s Indoor Masking in Dental Practice Public Spaces webpage.