Baystate Health updates mask policy amid rising COVID-19 cases

An increase in COVID-19 cases has prompted Baystate Health to reimplement their mask mandate and that started on Friday.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 11:23 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - An increase in COVID-19 cases has prompted Baystate Health to reimplement their mask mandate and that started on Friday. Now, anyone entering into patient rooms or patient care areas must have a mask on at all times. The mandate coincides with a national increasing rate of COVID-19 infections, which has left many in the hospital with severe to moderate symptoms.

“The hospitalizations are kind of the warning sign that the virus is spreading more frequently or more vigorously throughout the population and that more people have it,” said UMass microbiologist Dr. Erika Hamilton.

Baystate Health Chief Physician Executive and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Andrew Artenstein explained in a statement:

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Baystate Health’s dedicated team of infectious diseases specialists, hospital epidemiologists, and infection control professionals have vigilantly monitored the risk of COVID-19 infection in our communities. As case and hospitalization rates have escalated in recent weeks, we have determined that in order to protect the safety and health of our patients, visitors, and employees, we must re-institute the requirement that face masks be worn by employees and visitors in all direct patient care areas in Baystate Health hospitals and the Cancer Center, effective immediately. Our team will be continually monitoring the state of COVID-19 in our communities, so that our policies can adjust based on the risk assessment.”

Hamilton told us other hospitals may follow suit soon.

“I think very shortly, you will see hospitals and doctors office starting to roll out a mask mandate and this makes sense because COVID is not the only thing we spread when we cough or sneeze or talk,” Hamilton explained.

We reached out to nearby hospitals about their policies. Cooley Dickinson Hospital said in a statement:

“Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and the entire Mass General Brigham system, are continuing to closely monitor all developments related to COVID. Any change to our masking policy will be guided by public health officials and the system’s infection control experts.”

These mandates already having an impact on community members.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of people wearing masks and I’m like ‘Oh gosh, it’s coming back’ and knowing that the mandates might pick back up, it’s kind of scary overall,” said Amanda Camacho of Springfield. “Hopefully, they’ll use their masks and do what’s right to ensure the safety of everyone.”

Some agree a mask mandate may be helpful, but others said it might not be as useful”

“I just feel like they don’t do what they need to do. It’s pointless. Just wash your hands and keep away from coughing and sick people,” said one Springfield resident.

While we may see more mask requirements soon, Hamilton said treatment and vaccines are here to protect us from the worst-case scenarios.

“Back at the beginning of the pandemic, we had nothing. We weren’t even sure of the disinfectants that would kill this virus. Now, we know a lot more about this microorganism, so we’re better able to treat it and work with it,” Hamilton noted.

Baystate Health will have masks available at the entrances for those who need them.

Masks are optional in common spaces such as the cafeteria and in corridors.

All visitors, also referred to as care partners, must adhere to Baystate Health infection control practices that are in effect throughout our organization that include washing hands before entering and leaving the patient’s room and not eating in patient rooms.

You can CLICK HERE for more on Baystate’s visitor policy.