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U-M, Sparrow hospitals to ease mask requirements as COVID numbers wane



Some Michigan hospitals will soon begin to further ease COVID-era masking requirements in response to continued declining case rates and hospitalizations.

Beginning Wednesday, April 5, Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor and Sparrow Health System in Lansing will no longer require all patients, visitors and caregivers to wear masks at all times while inside their facilities, according to a spokesperson for each system.

Caregivers, patients and visitors will not have to wear masks when in public areas like hallways, waiting areas and cafeterias. Patients with respiratory symptoms or positive COVID tests, however, will have to wear masks, as will those with a household contact with COVID. Visitors will also need a mask when in a patient’s room as a COVID-19 precaution.

As for caregivers, they’ll still need to wear masks while providing direct patient care. They’ll also need to mask for the five days after they return to work from a COVID-19 absence.

Masks will still be available at facility entrances for those who choose to wear one, but they won’t be required upon stepping foot in the hospital as is current system policy.

“Patient safety is our top priority, and we will continue to monitor transmission rates in our community and adjust mask requirements as needed,” reads a statement from Michigan Medicine. “We will continue to make masks readily available for patients and visitors, and immunocompromised patients and visitors are encouraged to wear masks.”

John Foren, Sparrow’s director of media relations, said the policy change is likely to be an industry trend now that coronavirus numbers have remained low, communities have high levels of immunity, and there are widely available and effective treatments for COVID-19.

“Our goal is to protect patients and caregivers, but given these factors and the improvement of the numbers, we want to give people flexibility to take precautions at their own level of risk,” Foren said. “Some will always wear a mask now and some don’t want to wear a mask where they don’t have to.”

Sparrow caregivers were notified of the policy change Wednesday, March 29. The system plans to announce it publicly next week.

Elsewhere in the state, Corewell Health does not have plans to change its mask policy, according to a spokesperson. The system requires anyone 5 and older to wear a mask while inside any of the system facilities.

Henry Ford Health also continues to require everyone age 2 and older to wear a mask in patient settings and when entering/exiting public spaces within its facilities, a spokesperson confirmed.

Dr. Justin Klamerus, executive vice president and chief medical officer for McLaren Health Care, said his system follows state and local guidelines with respect to masking, and is reviewing community transmission levels of COVID-19 and other factors that may impact masking requirements in the future. As it stands, the health system requires masks be worn in all of its indoor settings.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MiOSHA) and its federal counterpart have not rescinded their COVID-19 policies for healthcare workers, which require masks be worn indoors when around other people, with some exceptions. However, they’re not currently enforcing those COVID-era mask policies, a spokesperson confirmed.

For the general public, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing masks indoors in communities reporting high levels of coronavirus spread. Its three-tiered system relies on new cases per 100,000 people and hospital admissions for determining “high,” “medium,” or “low” risk communities.

Most of Michigan has reported low community levels for months. Last week, Gogebic County in the Upper Peninsula reached “high” status. One week prior there were three counties – Alpena, Alger, and Marquette – but all three dropped below those thresholds within a week.

Read more on MLive:

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Michigan looks to drop A-F school grading system

Michigan service workers, stressed by erratic schedules, seek stability

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