New York State is lifting its mask mandate for hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings effective Feb. 12. Photo: Adobe Stock

New York State is ending its mask mandate in health care settings, including hospitals, hospice facilities and nursing homes.

As long as a facility is located in a county where COVID-19 community transmission levels are not high, health care facilities may eliminate mask requirements, according to the new state guidance, which follows guidance already established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommendations apply to all personnel, including volunteers, and visitors and apply regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

The CDC recommendations are based on SARS-CoV-2 community transmission levels published by the CDC. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

See COVID-19 community transmission levels here. (CDC COVID data tracker website)

Transmission levels in Suffolk and Nassau counties are currently “substantial,” according to the CDC portal. Transmission levels in New York City remain high.

Overall, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down in New York State in recent weeks after a seasonal peak following the year-end holiday. The peak this year was about a tenth of what it was last winter when the daily new-case count in Suffolk neared 7,000.

See charts showing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in NY and Suffolk County from March 2020 to present here.

Health care facilities should develop and implement policies for personnel and visitor masking based on the CDC and state health department recommendations, the state health commissioner said in a press release. Facility policies should be at least as strict as CDC recommendations and may be stricter at the discretion of the facility.

When SARS-CoV-2 community transmission levels are high, masks are recommended for everyone in a healthcare setting when they are in areas of the facility where they could encounter patients.

When SARS-CoV-2 community transmission levels are not high, healthcare facilities could choose not to require masks. However, masking remains recommended for individuals in healthcare settings who:

  • Have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection or other respiratory infection (e.g., those with runny nose, cough, sneeze); or
  • Had close contact (patients and visitors) or a higher-risk exposure (health care provider) with someone with COVID-19 infection, for 10 days after their exposure; or
  • Reside or work on a unit or area of the facility experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak; universal masking could be discontinued as a mitigation measure once no new cases have been identified for 14 days.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.