Main Line Health is requiring patients, staff and visitors at all of its hospitals and outpatient facilities to wear masks for at least two weeks as Covid cases rise and the suburban Philadelphia health system treats more patients with respiratory viruses.
Across the river in New Jersey, Cooper University Health Care has instituted a mask requirement, According to its website. Visitors to Cooper University Hospital will be required to wear masks starting Friday, and patients and visitors to the health system's outpatient facilities and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper offices will be required to wear masks.
Mainline leaders made the decision with the organization's infectious disease experts, who are monitoring respiratory viruses in the area as the current “sick season” continues, with more illnesses spread by vacation travel.
In the past week, more than 10% of patients admitted to main-line hospitals located in the western suburbs of Philadelphia had respiratory illnesses. Typically, that number is in the single digits, said Brett Gilbert, Main Line's chief infectious disease officer.
“That's a significant rise, and it will continue to rise based on the data we've established since the beginning of the pandemic,” Gilbert said.
The health system also looked at national and local data on respiratory virus circulation to see if infections could increase.
Increasing cases of covid and flu
Influenza and Covid cases are steadily increasing, with levels at rates expected for this time of year, Gilbert said. Cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are on a slight decline, he said. RSV, like the flu, is a respiratory virus.
Pennsylvania had 1,295 cases of Covid during the week of December 23, 2023. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was slightly lower than the number of Covid hospitalizations at the same time last year, and less than half the number reported in January 2022 during a surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant.
With more than 15,000 cases reported in Pennsylvania last week, flu cases are also on the rise across the state. More than 5% of emergency department visits in southeastern Pennsylvania occurred in a single week Diagnosed with fever About 3% compared to COVIDAccording to state data.
“Right now, I haven't found any position yet. I don't think we've peaked. We're going to be at a very high respiratory virus prevalence for the next few weeks,” said Judith O'Donnell, director of the Department of Infection Prevention and Control at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
At least one hospital system in the state has returned to face masks. Beginning Dec. 20, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the state's largest health system serving mostly western and northeastern Pennsylvania, needs Everyone in its premises must wear a mask.
Like most Philadelphia-area health systems, Penn is choosing to monitor the rise in respiratory illnesses now rather than requiring masks. The organization recommends that staff wear masks while caring for patients, and “plans to make further decisions based on our data and what's happening locally,” O'Donnell said.
At St Christopher's Hospital for Children, a spokeswoman said the hospital was monitoring cases and was “ready to switch immediately to masking or other preventive measures if indicated”.
A Temple Health spokeswoman said the health system is also closely monitoring cases and is “prepared to act as quickly as necessary” to protect patients and staff.
Several hospitals in the region relaxed mask requirements for healthcare workers last spring, and Philadelphia has eliminated it Mask order for such workers in May.
City health officials are not considering a mask mandate for the general public, the department said in a statement, noting that it has been monitoring an increase in respiratory illnesses since November.
Those who are sick should stay home or wear masks in public if they cannot, the department said. People who test positive for Covid-19, have high-risk conditions or are over 50 should ask their doctor about medicines for Covid, such as Paxlovit. The city encouraged residents to get regular vaccinations for Covid, flu and RSV.
The department also offers free home tests to residents Five resource centers in Philadelphia.
Creating a 'safety barrier'
The flurry of COVID cases that Main Line Health has seen in recent months has also worried its experts.
“It's not just the patients who are coming in who test positive and are asymptomatic. These patients are very sick — some require admission to the ICU,” Gilbert said. “It's a problem that really subsided after the first year and a half of the epidemic, but a lot of the patients who are coming in now are very sick.”
Gilbert and his team considered the number of patients in mainline hospitals and the number of staff needed to care for them; The health system's emergency departments have been “very busy” lately, he said.
“All our employees must be healthy and disease-free, and covering them up would be a security barrier,” he said.
Below are the main line facilities that require masks for at least two weeks. The health system says it will decide whether to extend the requirement Based on rates of hospital-acquired respiratory infections and national and local health agency guidelines.
Langenu Medical Centre
Bryn Mawr Hospital
Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital
Mirmont Treatment Center has inpatient and outpatient locations
Main Line Health Concordville
Main Line Health King of Prussia
Main Line Health Exton Sq
Main Line Health Broomall
Main Line Health Newtown Square
Main Line Health Collegeville
All main line healthcare locations
“Friend of animals everywhere. Devoted analyst. Total alcohol scholar. Infuriatingly humble food trailblazer.”