Lifting Mask Requirements in Nonclinical Workspaces in Healthcare Facilities
As the incidence of COVID-19 continues to decline and vaccination rates go up, further de-implementation will also need to be considered in the future: for example, lifting mask requirements in hallways and waiting areas for healthcare workers, visitors, and patients. Lastly, mask wearing when providing patient care will also need to be evaluated. Many societal milestones will need to be met before these next de-implementation phases.
As with other de-implementation efforts, it will be important to have adequate surveillance in place to detect if this change is associated with increases in transmission. Other factors such as potential future increases in community incidence either because of emerging variants of concern or waning immunity are also possible but not very likely in the short term.
Throughout the pandemic, everyone in charge of national, local public health, as well as healthcare epidemiologists/infection prevention professionals have made decisions with incomplete information and risking the possibility of being wrong. We must, however, not let our fear of being wrong keep us from implementing —or de-implementing — measures when the epidemiologic parameters support it.