Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Area Health Systems Announce Masking Recommendation During Surge in Respiratory Illness


HAMPTON ROADS — Area hospitals and healthcare systems are strongly recommending all patients and visitors, including those seeking outpatient services, wear a mask inside hospitals, medical facilities, and physician practices, according to a joint statement Thursday.

The move comes as Hampton Roads is seeing a sharp rise in cases of the flu, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory illnesses according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

Masks and hand sanitizer are available at facility entrances for public use, officials said.

All patients and visitors, even those who already received their annual flu shot and are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, are strongly encouraged to wear masks inside healthcare facilities, according to the news release.

Vaccinations are the best prevention available but are not 100 percent effective, officials said, and masking provides an added layer of protection from respiratory illnesses, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Additional measures to limit the spread of disease, especially the flu, include washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, getting vaccinated, and coughing into sleeves or tissues.

“As health care providers, our collective goal is to protect the community from sickness and disease. Data suggests an infected person can spread a respiratory virus 24 hours before showing any signs or symptoms,” the joint news release said. “This community-wide recommendation helps protect our patients, visitors, and staff from exposure to flu, COVID-19, and RSV even before symptoms are noticeable.”

Individuals experiencing respiratory illness-like symptoms are asked to stay home and refrain from visiting patients at area hospitals, according to the joint news release. Symptoms of respiratory illness include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The recommendation to wear a mask when entering healthcare facilities will remain in effect for as long reports of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV remain at elevated levels, officials said.

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