Medical center announces new mask-optional policy

Samaritan Medical Center. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Samaritan Health announced Friday that the majority of its facilities will now be mask-optional for all staff, patients, and visitors under certain criteria.

The operators of Samaritan Medical Center and multiple clinics said in a statement that the decision comes after closely watching Community Transmission levels of COVID-19, which remain at moderate, declining COVID hospitalization and infection rates, and dropping flu rates, as well as more indicators.

Samaritan says it now safely offers a mask-optional environment in many areas; however, if any of these metrics have an uptick, it could return to requiring facemasks.

The three major exceptions that will remain mask-required for all staff, patients/residents and visitors are:

■ The Emergency Department, because of the high-risk involved with the patients needing care and maintaining crucial source control.

■ The Walker Center for Cancer Care, because of the weakened immune systems of the patients served.

■ The Samaritan Keep Home and Summit Village, because they are regulated under different guidelines.

Patients, visitors and/or healthcare personnel are to follow masking practices per unit/department when specifically indicated, Samaritan said.

Any patient in any area who has signs or symptoms of respiratory illness or COVID-19 will be asked to wear a facemask as per Samaritan’s source control policy.

The public does not need to be masked in most Samaritan areas. Visitors who are not feeling well or have been in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to stay home and cannot visit patients or accompany patients to appointments.

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