The COVID-19 pandemic today is much different than it was in the spring of 2020, when St. Charles implemented a universal masking policy to decrease the risk of spread of the disease between caregivers, patients and visitors in our health care facilities. Over these past three years, the virus has evolved to cause less severe disease due to changes in the virus itself along with widespread population immunity and the availability of medications to reduce the risk of severe disease in those who are at high risk for developing severe disease.

As a result of these changes, and in alignment with the changing requirements of the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration, St. Charles will no longer require people to wear masks in public areas of the health system’s facilities beginning Monday, April 3. Masks will remain strongly recommended in our facilities as protection for the wearer and others. They will be required for people experiencing symptoms of a respiratory virus such as coughing and fever.

Also starting Monday, April 3, St. Charles will no longer require its caregivers to mask in most clinical settings. Caregivers will continue to be required to wear a mask in certain scenarios, including a request by a patient or if community transmission levels are high.

“Over the past three years, our caregivers have diligently worn masks in a selfless effort to keep themselves, other employees, and our patients safe. We are grateful to them for their care and their sacrifice, and we know the community is, too,” said St. Charles’ Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Mark Hallett. “With OHA and Oregon-OSHA lifting their mask requirements, our team of experts has carefully considered the facts and feels comfortable that this is a safe step forward for our caregivers, patients and community.”

It is important to note that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID infections continues to be a risk to the most vulnerable people in our communities. While transmission levels are currently lower than what they have been in the recent past, as future case levels may rise, so too will the risk of transmission to vulnerable patients and masking may be required during future outbreaks of COVID-19.

topics in this article