Dr. Kismet Baldwin-Santana, San Mateo County Health Officer, issued a local health order this Wednesday requiring masks for medical personnel in health care facilities.
Thus, as of the first minute of November 1, 2023, the order applies to paid and unpaid staff of the facilities and other health professionals and does not apply to patients, visitors or people with medical conditions, of mental health or a disability that prevents the use of a mask.
And annually between late fall and spring, data from San Mateo County shows higher rates of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19, among other viral infections that can cause serious respiratory illnesses. .
This seasonal increase in the circulation of multiple respiratory viruses presents a particular risk, including serious illness and death for infants, older adults, and people with impaired immune systems.
“Well-fitting masks worn by healthcare personnel reduce both the risk of infection for these workers and the risk of transmitting respiratory viruses to patients and residents,” Baldwin-Santana said. “Masks are essential in patient care areas when the seasonal risk of exposure to one or more viruses is highest.”
Health care facilities under the order include hospitals, dialysis centers, infusion centers, skilled nursing facilities, and portions of long-term care facilities where nursing care is provided.
Within those facilities, the order applies to patient care areas such as lobbies, waiting rooms, exam rooms, patient wings, elevators and hallways used by patients.
However, it does not apply to administrative offices or staff break areas, or to cafeterias or gift shops that are not used to provide medical care.
Similarly, the order does not apply to outpatient facilities, such as doctors' and dentists' offices, and other clinics that do not provide hospital care.
While not required in these settings, the health official strongly encourages outpatient caregivers to wear masks in patient areas of their facilities.
According to the order, ?face mask? means a surgical mask, KN95, KF94 or N95 that fits tightly on a person and covers the nose and mouth.
Notably, A scarf, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar, cloth mask, or any mask that has a one-way exhaust valve without a filter does not qualify.
The respiratory virus season runs from November 1 to April 30, although the health officer may adjust the order dates based on respiratory virus surveillance data.
Likewise, County Health urges residents six months and older to receive the seasonal flu vaccine and the updated COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting flu and COVID vaccines at the same time.
Vaccines are available at local healthcare providers and pharmacies at no cost to those with insurance, however, many pharmacies are offering free COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured residents.
Residents without health coverage can also contact County Health at 650-573-2877 or email SMCHealth_IZ@smcgov.org to learn how to access flu and COVID-19 vaccines at no cost.
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