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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

CDC Calls for Universal Masking in Healthcare Settings

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

In another new normal of the novel coronavirus pandemic, all healthcare personnel should wear surgical masks throughout their entire shift, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

Moreover, patients should be actively screened for fever before entering the facility and wear their own mask or be provided one to receive care. The recommendations come amid a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), but these are voluntary measures for hospitals to meet as their local situation warrants. Sometimes called “universal masking,” the practice was used in some hospitals during the 2003 SARS outbreak. As opposed to that predecessor coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) can spread with apparent ease from asymptomatic people.

“To address asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, implement source control for everyone entering a healthcare facility (e.g., healthcare personnel, patients, visitors), regardless of symptoms,” the CDC recommends. Medical face masks should be reserved for healthcare personnel, but visitors and patients can wear cloth face coverings. If they arrive without one, they can be provided a mask if supplies are available, the CDC notes.

“As community transmission intensifies within a region, healthcare facilities could consider foregoing contact tracing for exposures in a healthcare setting in favor of universal source control for healthcare personnel and screening for fever and symptoms before every shift,” the CDC states.

For more on this story, see the upcoming issue of Hospital Employee Health.