Harbor Regional Health has announced that while the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will end the Secretary of Health Mask Order as of April 3, the mandate will continue at Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital and affiliated clinics.
The order issued in April 2020 required universal masking in healthcare, long-term care, and adult correctional facilities for people age 5 and older.
In a letter sent to staff on Thursday and provided to KXRO, the hospital group states, “On April 3, 2023, the Washington State Secretary of Health ahs declared the end of the mandated masking requirements for healthcare facilities. Statewide this has caused concern for healthcare facilities and professionals who feel, as we do, a responsibility for the safety and well-being of staff, Medical Staff, patients, and visitors.”
The letter continues that the decision to continue requiring masking for all staff and visitors at any of their facilities came “After careful consideration”.
Dori Unterseher, Chief Nursing Office at Harbor Regional Health, says that the decision to continue masking requirements locally is in an abundance of caution and relates to the federal pandemic response declaration, which is scheduled to end May 11.
The decision by Harbor Regional Health was said to be made following reviews of recommendations from other regulatory agencies such as the CDC and L&I, as well as recommendation from Grays Harbor County Medical Public Health Officer Dr. John Bausher and other healthcare facilities.
The letter adds, “We will continue to review and communicate any changes in status with the overarching emphasis on the safety and health of our community as the utmost importance.”
Each hospital and healthcare facility within the state will make their own decisions on when masking requirements will be removed. KXRO has not had confirmation from any other local healthcare facility that they are intending to remove individual mandates.
In the announcement of the statewide mandate end, Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH stated, “Masks have been – and will continue to be – an important tool, along with vaccinations, to keep people healthy and safe”.
While the vast majority of masking requirements within Washington have been removed, several worker protection requirements enforced by the state’s Department of Labor & Industries remain in effect, including that employees and contractors may choose to use facemasks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job without employer retaliation.