All staff, patients and visitors at any of the University of Maryland Medical System’s 13 hospitals and other health care facilities, and those in the LifeBridge system, now must wear a mask at all times to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, officials said Monday.
The move is the latest at hospitals in the region and across the country that are preparing and responding to the rapidly spreading virus and the COVID-19 disease. Hospitals in the region already have instituted strict visitor policies and taken other steps as part of their plans.
“The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is happening on multiple fronts, and our mission to provide high-quality, compassionate and safe patient care and to ensure the safety of our workforce has never been as demanding or as important as it is right now,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical System, in a statement.
“Given the asymptomatic community spread of COVID-19, we have shifted to a broader stance on infection prevention, including this masking policy, out of an abundance of caution and respect for the safety of our patients and staff,” he said.
At University of Maryland hospitals, nonmedical cloth masks are permitted for anyone walking through the facilities, but medical masks are required for anyone within 6 feet of any non-COVID-19 patient. Clinical staff within 6 feet of a COVID-19 patient or someone who may be infected must wear personal protective equipment, including a respirator mask, eye protection, gown and gloves.
All staff, patients and visitors entering any LifeBridge facility — including Sinai, Northwest and Carroll hospitals, Levindale and Grace Medical Center, formerly Bon Secours Hospital — will be given a protective mask and required to wear it while on facility grounds.
The mask policy follows advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people 2 and older to wear cloth masks in public situations where keeping a distance from others is difficult, such as at the grocery store. The CDC advises the public to wear nonmedical masks because surgical and N95 masks are considered critical supplies and should be preserved for health care workers.