Monday, March 27, 2023
Staff in local skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) will be required to continue wearing masks under a new Contra Costa County health order.
The order, which requires masks to be well-fitted and cover the nose and mouth, will also apply to paramedics, emergency medical technicians, contractors and vendors when they enter these facilities in Contra Costa. The masking order will not apply to SNF patients or visitors seeing their loved ones.
The County's health order will go into effect on Monday, April 3, immediately after the state's COVID masking order for healthcare settings expires.
"Requiring staff at SNFs to wear well-fitting masks will help protect their vulnerable elderly patients from being infected with COVID," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the County's health officer, who is issuing the order. "We know from our experience during the pandemic that the people SNFs serve – seniors with serious underlying health problems – are the ones who are most susceptible to severe outcomes from a COVID infection."
Since the pandemic began in 2020, 57% of the deaths from COVID in Contra Costa have been among people ages 75 and older.
There are 30 SNFs in Contra Costa. Skilled nursing facilities provide a higher level of medical care than other long-term care facilities. The order will not apply to assisted living facilities, residential-care facilities or board-and-care homes, although masking is still highly recommended in those settings.
Hospitals and outpatient healthcare clinics in Contra Costa County will not be subject to the new County order, although local health systems can choose to enforce their own masking policies. Dr. Tzvieli said hospitals have robust infection-control policies and personnel and can determine if and when masking is required.
California's pandemic-related health emergency ended on Feb. 28. While the state is lifting its masking requirements for healthcare settings on April 3, local health officials can still issue their own masking orders.
Under the County health order, a well-fitted mask is defined as covering the nose and mouth and it's strongly recommended that SNF personnel use higher-quality masks, such as an N95 or KN95/94, to provide the maximum protection.
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