Patient masking updates for U.S. locations

As COVID-19 infections rise in our communities, it is important to stay the course with the additional safety measures we have put in place at our facilities. Wearing masks continues to be a key way we can help slow the spread.

Our masking requirements have evolved throughout the pandemic to help protect our caregivers, patients and visitors while inside our facilities. The current requirements are below:

  • Caregivers: Wearing a surgical or ear loop mask is required. (When entering clinical areas, caregivers are also required to wear a face shield or goggles in addition to their mask, per Universal Pandemic Precautions.)
  • Visitors: Wearing any mask/facial covering is required.
  • Patients:
    • Wearing any mask/facial covering is required for outpatients.
    • Wearing any mask/facial covering is strongly encouraged for inpatients, and surgical or ear loop masks are readily available.
    • Wearing any mask/facial covering is required for Emergency Department patients and patients at an Urgent Care in which there is an Emergency Department onsite. If they refuse to wear one, they must still be seen per EMTALA and can be treated as if presumptively COVID-19 positive.

To further support caregivers when communicating with patients who refuse to wear a mask, we have developed a standard process to help guide these conversations. Follow the guidelines below.

When a patient refuses to wear a mask

For non-medical reasons:
Refer to our messaging guides  to try to get the patient to wear a mask if they do not have one on when entering our facilities. If they still refuse, keep in mind the following:

  • Patients will be informed that they will need to schedule a virtual appointment. We cannot offer in-person care if the appointment is outpatient and the patient refuses to wear a mask without a medical exception. If the patient shares that the care is urgent, but does not wish to mask or set up a virtual appointment, the patient can be directed to follow up with the nearest Emergency Department.  
  • Inpatients are strongly encouraged, not required, to wear a mask.

For medical reasons:
If a patient shares that a medical reason prevents them from wearing a mask, we must consider reasonable accommodations. We cannot require patients to provide documentation of the medical condition. Consider reasonable accommodations such as:

  • Suggest the provider meets with the patient virtually instead.
  • Offer the patient a clear face shield instead of a mask.
  • Admit the patient to a single room.
  • Schedule such a patient at a low volume time.
  • Ask the patient to wait in their car until the appointment begins.

For any patients without masks in any setting:
We can consider a patient without a mask as a presumptive COVID-19 positive patient. This means caregivers should consider the applicable personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations for the patient’s care. In this case, caregivers could also consider the resources available (e.g. single or cohort rooms, separate waiting areas) to support the patient’s care.

Note: If a patient is concerned with your approach in any situation, refer to the ombudsman for assistance at 216.444.2544.