State dropping mask requirement for hospitals, but some Rochester-area facilities will keep them

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York State is dropping its COVID-era mask requirements for hospitals and healthcare facilities.

But you’ll still need to don one in Rochester-area healthcare facilities.

The leaders of both Rochester Reginal Health and UR Medicine say while there may be areas where masks are no longer needed, they need time to determine that.

So for now, employees and visitors must still mask up when inside area hospitals and the private practices associated with the health care systems that own them. Private practices can set their own requirements.

The statewide mandate will expire this Sunday. All staff, patients, and visitors have been required to mask up, regardless of COVID vaccination status.

The acting health commissioner says the state health department will advise facilities to follow CDC guidelines and come up with their own plans for when to require masks based on community case levels.

“We would like to look at the situation in great detail and make sure we don’t make a mistake,” Dr. Michael Apostolakos, chief medical officer of Strong Memorial Hospital, said. “The one thing that has been clear about masking in hospitals is that it has helped stop the spread of disease in our hospitals and protect our patients. There may be areas in the hospitals or in the office practices that it may be okay that we allow visitors to go without masks, but I do think we need to look at this carefully because both our organizations are very large with a lot of different environments.”

Both healthcare systems will continue to assess the situation and may make changes on a weekly or a monthly basis.

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