As public masking requirements ease, MaineHealth issues reminder that precautions remain in health care settings
May 21, 2021
Portland, Maine – MaineHealth, the region’s largest integrated health system, issued a reminder today that, even as state and federal public health agencies ease masking requirements and social distancing recommendations for those who are fully vaccinated, its hospitals and clinics will continue to require those precautions for everyone.
“Already, we’ve had people arriving at our hospitals and clinics and asking why they must still wear a mask and maintain social distancing,” said Dr. Dora Mills, chief health improvement officer with MaineHealth. “The answer is that the new guidelines from the U.S. CDC specifically say health care settings must continue to require masks and practice social distancing.”
The U.S. CDC has said that those who are fully vaccinated – meaning people who received their final vaccine dose at least two weeks ago – can safely go without a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. The guidance remains unchanged for those who have not been vaccinated. The Maine CDC in turn announced that it was lifting a statewide mask mandate in many public settings as of May 24. There are, however, exceptions, including schools, day care facilities, public transportation, and in all health care facilities.
“Though we’ve done a fantastic job in Maine getting our people vaccinated with more than 50 percent now fully protected, there is still a fair amount of disease in our communities,” said Mills. While the number of new infections reported each day has fallen, it remains significant. On Friday, the Maine CDC reported an additional 170 COVID-19 infections and two additional deaths due to the virus in the state.
Mills said it is important people understand that precautions are still in place in health care settings, not only so they can be prepared should they or a loved one need care, but also so that they can have confidence that hospitals and clinics are safe.
“People shouldn’t put off getting the care they need, and they should know we continue to do all we can to keep them safe when they come to us for care,” said Mills.
The masking requirement applies to all patients, staff and visitors in health care settings. Additionally, restrictions on visitors remain in place across MaineHealth, and those will be reviewed going forward as appropriate given federal and state guidance and the level of risk in the community.
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but we are not done yet,” said Mills. “Masking and social distancing have been important tools during this crisis, and they remain essential to assuring the safety of our patients and our care team.”
MaineHealth is a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of nine local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,700 employed and independent physicians working together through an Accountable Care Organization. With close to 23,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. It includes Franklin Memorial Hospital/Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington, LincolnHealth in Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor, Maine Behavioral Healthcare in South Portland, MaineHealth Care at Home in Saco, Maine Medical Center in Portland, Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., Mid Coast-Parkview Health in Brunswick, NorDx in Scarborough, Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital in Rockport and Belfast, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford and Sanford, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook and Stephens Memorial Hospital/Western Maine Health Care in Norway. MaineHealth Affiliates include Maine General Health in Augusta and Waterville, New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portland and St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. It is also a significant stakeholder in the MaineHealth Accountable Care Organization in Portland.