Major Boston hospitals to lift mask mandates in May

Major Boston hospitals are set to lift a years-long mask mandate this month.

Mass General Brigham, Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel, Lahey Health and UMass Memorial Health will no longer require masks on the premises starting May 12th.

The requirement lifting comes after the federal and state public health emergency for COVID-19 expires on May 11.

“Today, the number of COVID-19 cases has declined significantly, and the impact of infection has lessened due to improved access to testing, development of substantial immunity through vaccination, and availability of effective medical therapies. Given these changing circumstances, we are in a safer place to end universal masking at this time,” Sharon Wright, Chief Infection Prevention Officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health.

Many of the hospitals say they expect the Massachusetts Department of Health to set their own masking guidelines.

UMass Memorial Health tells Boston 25 News that caregivers will still need to wear masks in Emergency Rooms and at Oncology and transplant units. Masks will otherwise be optional for caregivers patients and visitors. The hospital says it will re-evaluate its policy in four weeks to see if further adjustments need to be made.

While Mass General Brigham will also end the universal masking system, the hospital asks that those experiencing COVID symptoms still grab a mask inside the facility. Employees will use masks per “standard precautions” such as when doing work that may generate splashes or sprays.

Tufts acknowledges that some employees may wish to continue masking throughout the buildings and asks that everyone respect those wishes. Similarly, Boston Medical Center welcomes visitors and caregivers who choose to still a mask and promises masks will still be available throughout the premises.

“Any team member can wear a mask or N95 whenever they choose,” said Shira Doron, Chief Infection Control Officer. “Tufts Medicine has demonstrated an exceptional level of care, compassion and respect throughout the pandemic, and we know that will continue as we move forward.”

Last month, a group of local doctors called on Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey to keep the mandatory mask requirements in place.

The group says the COVID picture in Massachusetts is not as bright as official figures suggest due to non-reporting of home tests and asymptomatic infections. Earlier in the pandemic, they said, wastewater data lined up with state infection counts. But in recent months, wastewater has shown levels of Covid higher than state figures.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced Thursday the city will lift the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers next week as well.

The Mayor’s Office states more than 95% of employees submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination by late January 2022. The City says no employees were fired because of non-compliance.

The WHO downgraded the COVID-19 pandemic from a global health emergency Friday morning.

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