COVID-19 FAQs: Do we need to wear face masks?

CDC says unvaccinated people should wear masks in public, take other safety steps

How to properly wear a face mask, an infographic showing a man in profile with face mask loops over his ears and mask covering his nose and mouth

If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, good news: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can safely do what you did before the pandemic.

The latest CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. This includes local business and workplace guidance.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in all situations where social distancing isn’t possible.

Choose safer activities: CDC’s outdoor and indoor activity guide

The CDC also recommends mask use for children age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency warns against placing masks on children younger than 2, or on anyone who has trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance.

Sanford Health has followed CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and continues to adjust its policies while keeping employee, patient and resident safety as a top priority.

Employee mask policy

To meet CDC guidelines, Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society also implemented face mask requirements in April 2020. At the same time, the health system intensified infection control measures to protect patients, residents and health care staff.

Employees must wear surgical face masks at all times while in clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing locations, assisted living communities, and home health and hospice care settings.

Providers caring for presumed or known positive COVID-19 patients wear additional protective gear, including face shields, N95 respirators or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs).

Effective May 18, 2021, fully vaccinated Sanford Health employees working in non-clinical locations are no longer required to wear masks in common areas or private offices.

Visitor mask policy

Where visitors are allowed, they also must wear masks in clinical locations, shared spaces or when social distancing isn’t possible. Fully vaccinated visitors, when alone in a patient’s room or designated visitation room, may choose to gather unmasked.

Early in the pandemic, the CDC’s recommendations for face masks applied only to people sick with COVID-19 or for health care providers working closely with those patients. But since learning people without symptoms can spread COVID-19, the CDC widened its recommendation to the general public.

Masks are only one measure

Face coverings are simply an additional measure of protection, the CDC notes. Other preventive measures are still crucial tools in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Those are:

  • Staying home when you’re sick
  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, now available for people ages 12 and older
  • Social distancing 6 feet from people outside your household
  • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of another person for a total of 15 minutes or more — even shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

This story originally was published April 6, 2020. It was last updated June 10, 2021.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions

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