Since the pandemic began, there have been several fluctuations in mask policies, with healthcare facilities understandably remaining the most stringent. As of today, masks are still required in many such facilities, but Essentia Health made a big announcement Thursday.

According to their news release, after careful consideration of the state of COVID-19, Essentia Health will move to a voluntary masking policy for most staff, patients, and visitors.

This change goes into effect Monday, April 3, and applies to their hospitals, clinics, and home health care.

Essentia Health adds that this voluntary masking policy does not apply to their long-term care/nursing home facilities or assisted living facilities, which will continue to evaluate masking protocols separately. Also, hospice staff will follow the policies of the facilities they enter.

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They note that as the disease has evolved, they are seeing fewer deaths and hospitalizations related to the virus. Additionally, the current availability of COVID-19 vaccines and effective treatments has improved.

That being said, they still encourage masks for anyone who has symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection, has had COVID-19 exposure, or other infectious respiratory illnesses.

Those who choose to wear a mask will be able to get them at the entrance of all Essentia Health facilities. They will continue following appropriate transmission-based precautions and staff members caring for COVID-19 patients or suspected COVID-19 patients will still be required to wear full personal protective equipment. Furthermore, those visiting COVID-19 patients must wear a mask, in accordance with their visitor guidelines.

Patients can request that their provider or others on their care team wear a mask.

Essentia Health continues to encourage people to protect themselves by washing their hands, staying up to date on vaccines, and continuing to test for the virus and seek treatment as needed.

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