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Hospitals, nursing homes under federal COVID mandate

Even through federal and state mask orders are no longer in place, the nation’s hospitals and nursing homes remain under federal mask requirements — even for people who are fully vaccinated.

Troy Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said the COVID-19 outbreak is easing up and the hospital has expanded visiting hours from 10 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. But, he said masks are still required.

“Even though the Centers for Disease Control says people who are fully vaccinated don’t have to wear a mask, a lot of people don’t realize that hospitals and nursing homes fall under different guidelines,” Smith said. “Basically, the order requires all visitors and staff to wear a mask when inside the hospital.”

Smith said people are not required to be vaccinated to visit the hospital, but Smith said it was highly encouraged. He said visitors can remove the mask when they are inside of a private room and isolated from the rest of the hospital. But, when visitors leave the room, they must wear a mask to exit the hospital.

Smith said Troy Regional Medical Center was doing everything possible to keep the hospital a safe environment for patients, staff and visitors as well.

The CDC made an announcement on May 13, that fully vaccinated people may go maskless in most places. The Alabama Nursing Home Association and the Alabama Hospital Association issued statements reminding people that those guidelines don’t include hospitals and nursing homes.

“Providing good care to patients in a safe environment is the primary goal of our hospitals,” said Don Williamson, MD, president of the Alabama Hospital As-sociation.  “While the number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals is definitely de-creasing, hospitals are still treating many of these patients and must take every precaution to ensure the virus is not spread internally.  That’s why the CDC and others are still requiring those in healthcare facilities to wear masks.  Just as hospital staff must continue to wear their masks, those visiting patients will also be required to wear their masks.”

The most recent CDC policy for hospitals and nursing homes can be found by visiting cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-after-vaccination.html.

“Cases of COVID-19 are down 98 percent in Alabama’s nursing homes and we’re beginning to return to normal operations,” Alabama Nursing Home Asso-ciation president and CEO Brandon Farmer said. “We’re glad the public can begin to do more activities without wearing a mask. However, nursing homes must still abide by federal guidelines that require residents, visitors and staff members to wear masks in certain circumstances. We appreciate the family members of our residents understanding and wearing a mask when they visit their loved one.”