Bartlett Regional Hospital will no longer require masking in its facilities along with a change in its pre-procedure testing policies, the hospital announced in a recent news release. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Bartlett Regional Hospital will no longer require masking in its facilities along with a change in its pre-procedure testing policies, the hospital announced in a recent news release. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Bartlett Regional Hospital drops mandatory masking policy

Patients, visitors and staff will be required to screen for symptoms at hospital’s main entrance.

Bartlett Regional Hospital will no longer require masking in its facilities along with a change in its pre-procedure testing policies, the hospital announced in a recent news release.

The immediate change was due in part to the drop in COVID-19 community transmission rates in Juneau, which Erin Hardin, BRH director of marketing and communications, explained equates to the number of new cases per 100,000 people within a week, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hardin said just a few days ago Juneau dropped from a high transmission — more than 100 cases per 100,000 people — to what’s considered a substantial transmission rate — between 50 and 99 new cases per 100,000 people. She said most hospitals follow community transmission rates provided by the CDC to determine its masking policy and reflect their policy based on that data.

Hardin noted the hospital’s new policy may be subject to change if community transmission rates rise.

She said the hospital will continue to require masking for patients who are symptomatic or have COVID-19 or other respiratory infection, along with continuing its main entrance screening for symptoms and exposure policy.

Hardin said though visitors, patients and staff in most areas of the hospital and pre-procedure testing are no longer required to mask up, the hospital will still continue to require masking for patients who are symptomatic or have a confirmed COVID-19 or other respiratory infections who will still be required.

Along with that, hospital staff who are providing direct patient care —“hands-on and face-to-face contact” — will also be required to wear masks as well, Hardin said.

“If you’re treating someone, monitoring someone, anytime it’s hand-on and face-to-face contact area staff will continue to mask,” she said. “Outside of that, staff are no longer required to wear masks.”

She said the hospital will continue to recommend and support its patients, staff and visitors to wear masks and practice a higher level of protection, especially as cold weather approaches and with it peak flu and illness season.

“We strongly encourage folks to get their flu vaccines if they haven’t already,” she said. “We hope we will be able to see low transmission rates and getting vaccinated will greatly help with that but if we see numbers rise, we may require masking again.”

Masks and hand sanitizer will still remain available at numerous locations throughout the hospital, according to the hospital.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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