New York State Department of Health Updates COVID-19 Mask Guidance for Health Care Settings
Aligning With Federal CDC Recommendations, Required Masking in Health Care Settings to End Feb. 12
Operators Advised to Implement Mask Policies for Facilities Based on CDC Guidance and Transmission Levels
The New York State Department of Health has issued a COVID-19 advisory for the use of masks and face coverings in health care facilities, aligning the State's guidance with the latest federal recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Department continues to affirm the importance of masking as a vital and effective infection prevention strategy. The new guidance, which goes into effect on Feb. 12, advises all operators to develop and implement a masking plan for staff and visitors at their facilities, which includes COVID-19 and uses Transmission Levels, as a minimum threshold.
"March 1st represents 3 years since the first COVID-19 case was identified in New York," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Health care workers statewide have performed consistently and heroically throughout this pandemic, and have used masking and other personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients. The pandemic is not over, yet we are moving to a transition. As we do, and with safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and more, we are able to lift the State's masking requirement in health care settings as operators now develop and implement their own facility-specific plans, in accordance with federal CDC guidance and the level of transmission in their areas."
The advisory, sent as a Dear Administrator Letter, was issued to all facilities and entities regulated by the Department under Articles 28, 36, and 40 of the Public Health Law. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, home health care and hospice agencies, and diagnostic and treatment centers. As laid out by the Department, these facilities are expected to follow previously established and required policies for the control of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, that at a minimum adhere to CDC's guidance and Transmission Levels system. At any given time, the Department expects facilities' plans to include the policies and procedures necessary to implement a masking requirement when COVID-19 transmission levels are high enough to trigger that recommendation by CDC. Department-regulated facilities may also set requirements that go beyond CDC's guidance, based on their unique circumstances. Health care settings in New York State that remain outside of the Department's regulatory authority, including private medical and dental practices, are strongly advised to also adhere to these COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures. New York adult care facilities are recommended by the Department to follow CDC's community guidance and guidance for congregate living settings. Facilities and programs operating under the authority of another State agency will follow the masking requirements of that agency. This advisory does not affect any facility requirements unrelated to COVID-19, including those in place for Influenza. The Department thanks health care operators, providers, staff, and New Yorkers for their work in continuing to adopt important public health measures throughout the pandemic, including masking in health care settings. State health officials urge everyone six months and older to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, check transmission levels in their communities, and comply with the individual masking policies that New York facilities will put in place to keep their patients well-protected.