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Last night, we began the roll-out of the new UW Medicine Optional Extended-use Masking policy. We started in the UW Medicine Emergency Departments and are currently working on the implementation in all other areas (including clinics).

Why are we making this change?

1) Concerns of staff and clinicians: We heard your concerns as we see more cases of COVID-19 and understand that many staff and clinicians are uncomfortable coming to work without additional personal protective equipment (PPE). We also recognize that people may be infected without having symptoms or with very mild symptoms. We want our healthcare workers to feel safe and confident as they continue to respond to this pandemic.

2) Personal protective equipment (PPE) conservation: Those who opt in will be wearing one mask per day and will use a face shield when going into patients in droplet/contact (in addition to gown and gloves). Each healthcare worker will use one face shield per shift, which will be cleaned after each patient and discarded at the end of their shift.

This decision was not made due to an exposure or a change in the rate of infections among UW Medicine staff or faculty. In fact, we are reassured that, as of today, 4.4% of all symptomatic UW Medicine employees out of over 2,000 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 compared to 9.8% of all patients tested in the UW Clinical Virology Lab. We will continue to do all we can to support a safe work environment for our employees and appreciate your continued input and partnership. Please see our policy statement and FAQs on the UW Medicine COVID-19 website for more information.