A safe next step: Changes to our employee face mask policy for non-patient care buildings

We continue our safety precautions inside the direct-patient care setting because of our commitment to safety for our patients, many of whom have serious illness. As we continue to see decreases in the level of COVID-19 transmission in our community, however, we’re now able to safely make modifications to our employee masking policy in non-patient care buildings.

Effective Wednesday, Nov. 9:

What’s changing with employee masking:

  • In non-patient care buildings (where neither direct patient care nor high-level disinfection nor sterilization related to patient care occurs):
  • Face masks are not required, but welcome, for all employees in non-patient care buildings.
  • If you feel unwell or experience any symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and use the MyChart self-checker to assess your need for a COVID-19 test.

What’s staying the same with employee masking:

In patient care buildings (where direct patient care or high-level disinfection or sterilization related to patient care occurs):

  • Medical-grade face masks are required for all employees except while alone in a private office or when eating/drinking.
  • If you work in an area that provides patient care, you should wear a mask from your unit or clinic, as these masks have been specially ordered and are intended for patient care (e.g., yellow medical-grade face masks or an N95 respirator).
    • Employees who provide care to patients with COVID-19 or those who are under investigation for COVID-19 (PUI) must wear an N95 respirator and eye protection. View additional safety and PPE guidelines here.

We recognize that we are holding ourselves to a high standard by continuing to mask. Our regulatory agencies hold us to a higher standard, too. Given this and the amount of people in our buildings every day, it’s important to continue these safety practices to keep our patients, their families, and our teams safe.

Frequently asked questions

Why are we changing our guidelines?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:04 am

We’re able to safely make modifications to our employee masking policy in non-patient care buildings of our organization to reflect the changing situation and decrease in COVID-19 transmission.

What locations are affected by these changes?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:06 am

This change only impacts non-patient care buildings (where neither direct patient care nor high-level disinfection nor sterilization related to patient care occurs). 

Employees working in patient care buildings—where direct patient care or high-level disinfection or sterilization related to patient care occurs—should continue to wear a medical-grade mask at all times, except while alone in a private office or when eating/drinking.

Why is this change only for non-patient care buildings?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:06 am

As a regional referral center, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, as do our regulatory agencies. Given this and the amount of people in our buildings every day, we believe it’s important to continue some of our safety practices to keep our patients, their families, and our teams safe, especially in environments where patients receive care.

Can I continue to wear a mask even if I work in a non-patient care building?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:06 am

Yes, all employees working in non-patient care buildings are still welcome to wear a face mask.

Are patients and visitors still required to wear a face mask?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:06 am

Yes, patients and visitors are still required to wear a face mask at all times while in our patient care buildings.

Are the College of Medicine buildings considered non-patient care buildings?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:08 am

Yes, College of Medicine buildings are considered non-patient care buildings, meaning employees working in those buildings may choose whether to wear a face mask.

If I work in a non-clinical function in an area of a patient care hospital or clinic, do I still have to mask?
Updated on 11/08/2022 at 8:08 am

Yes, all employees working in a patient care hospital or clinic—regardless of their function—must continue to wear a face mask at all times, except while alone in a private office or when eating/drinking.

10 comments

  1. So pretty much nothing is changing for us employees at the hospital? If Mercy hospital can do without masks and other surrounding area hospitals, why can’t we?

    • Hi Carrie,
      That is correct. If you work within the hospital (which is a building that provides patient care) nothing is changing right now. We recognize that we are holding ourselves to a high standard by continuing to mask. Our regulatory agencies hold us to a higher standard, too. Given this and the amount of people in our buildings every day, it’s important to continue these safety practices to keep our patients, their families, and our teams safe.

  2. So in the pharmacy, which has plastic screens up at the windows to act as a barrier, are we still required to wear masks even though we don’t actually provide care?

    • Kathleen, thank you for the question. Yes, because our pharmacies operate within our patient care buildings, face masks are still required. We recognize that we are holding ourselves to a high standard by continuing to mask. Our regulatory agencies hold us to a higher standard, too. Given this and the amount of people in our buildings every day, it’s important to continue these safety practices to keep our patients, their families, and our teams safe.

  3. What regulatory agencies are holding us to the standard of universal masking in all buildings that provide patient care?

    • Kara, thanks for the question. Our regulatory agencies including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Joint Commission continue to have regulatory standards that require COVID-19 safety practices to be implemented. UI Health Care continues to monitor the community transmission rates as well as the regulatory requirements to form our policies around COVID-19 safety practices.

  4. Good morning. Has there been a change in the restrictions related to on-site meetings for larger groups of employees?

    • To add to Marian’s question – for non-clinical buildings – is the restrictions lifted for lunch/meetings/work get togethers in conference rooms removed?

    • Marian, employees can meet in larger groups so long as the room is large enough that it avoids crowding. Allowing for distance between meeting attendees (a few feet) will limit the number of individuals able to safely attend based on the room’s size.

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