- UW Medicine will continue to require masking in patient care and public spaces for three months following the end of the Washington State Secretary of Health’s directive on April 3, 2023.
- Masking requirements will be reassessed at the end of June.
- UW Medicine’s COVID-19 test sites will close by May 11, 2023.
UW Medicine has put patient and healthcare worker safety first throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing tools to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission in patient care settings. While we know that many people are ready for a change, one of our most important interventions for reducing the spread of COVID-19 has been universal source control through masking.
UW Medicine’s hospitals and clinics will continue to require masking in patient care and public spaces for three months following the end of the Washington State Secretary of Health’s directive on April 3, 2023. By the end of June, we will begin to reassess the need for masking requirements based on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision aligns UW Medicine with recommendations from our public health partners and other local health systems.
Why are we continuing the masking requirement? In our communities, COVID-19 continues to circulate at significant levels. Masks, especially high-quality, well-fitting ones like N95 and KN95, mitigate the spread of infection in patient care settings, including when people have minimal or no symptoms. They also protect patients who have conditions that leave them vulnerable to severe disease associated with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Unlike many other activities, healthcare is not optional, and every patient deserves to feel safe from acquiring a preventable infection when seeking healthcare.
Healthcare workers, who have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, also deserve to work in the safest possible environment. Universal masking of patients, visitors and healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics and public spaces like hallways and elevators will help maintain confidence in our ability to care for patients in the safest way possible and allow us to deliver the range and quality of treatment that our patients need.
Will we need to wear masks in hospitals and clinics forever? The best answer is that we do not know yet. In addition to acute illness, COVID-19 is increasingly recognized as a cause of long-term health conditions, or post-COVID-19 conditions, that occur even after individuals recover from infection. These include cardiovascular (heart attacks and stroke), thrombotic (blood clots), and gastrointestinal effects that can occur even if the individual had asymptomatic or mild infection.
When the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 ends on May 11, 2023, we will also lose some of the epidemiological data that we have been using to adjust the level of precautions in our hospitals and clinics. As a result, we will be looking for new metrics over the next three months to help us assess the appropriate level of precautions.
Closure of UW Medicine COVID-19 test sites: The UW Medicine Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology will close its test collection sites due to the end of the Public Health Emergency. The last day of operations for Auburn, Harborview, Rainier Beach, Shoreline and West Seattle will be March 31, 2023. The collection sites on the UW campus (E4 Parking Lot) and in Bellevue will close on May 11, 2023. To find other COVID-19 testing locations, visit Public Health – Seattle & King County or Washington State Department of Health.
We appreciate your continued support as we take the necessary time to learn more about the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and to make the best decisions for the safety of our patients and healthcare workers.
UW Medicine Infection Prevention and Control Teams