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California drops mask mandate but policies at local hospitals vary

For the past three years, to enter a hospital, visitors have needed to wear a mask. It’s part of the COVID-19 protocol to protect health care workers and patients.

But California’s masking rules are changing. As of Monday, the California Department of Public Health has lifted the mask mandate.

"They are encouraging health care settings, particularly hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and long-term care facilities, to develop their own policies and procedures in this regard,” San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.


The county also dropped its mask mandate. Wooten said the county last year adopted a resolution to align its COVID-19 policies with the state's.

"We also are seeing that our cases, weekly and seven-day daily average cases, are declining, which is good news," Wooten said. "We can modify or change that if our community levels, the community level changes."

At local hospitals, however, the policies vary.

"We don't want to forget the lessons that we've learned these last three years," Scripps Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ghazala Sharieff said.

Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare worked together to craft their policies. Both hospitals were hard-hit with high COVID-19 patient loads in the last three years.


"Hence, us wanting to be a little more slow and steady versus saying masks off for everybody in all patient care areas," Sharieff said. "We know what it looks like to get health care workers sick. That happened last year when we had over 700 staff members out with Covid, and so we don't want to repeat that over again. So this is our middle ground.”

Workers there will still mask up in patient exam rooms and hospital suites, and within six feet of each other.

At Kaiser Permanente and Rady Children’s Hospital, masks will not be required for patients and workers. But masking will still be required during certain health procedures, such as intubation, where coughing and other reactions are more likely to spread infectious diseases.

Alvarado and Paradise Valley hospitals’ masking requirements will remain in effect in highly infectious areas.

While the mask mandate is no longer in effect, those with respiratory symptoms and illnesses are still expected to mask up at hospitals and other health care settings