Minimum Standards for Safe Practice

Reminder on Current Masking Guidelines

From the UTMB COVID-19 Clinical Task Force

May 24, 2022

Modifications to precautions due to increasing number of infections

The rate of COVID infection has continued to increase in our region as well as among our patients and UTMB workforce. Although rates of severe infection and hospitalization due to COVID remain stable and low, caution is advised to keep our employees and patients safe from COVID infection during this current wave. The following COVID precautions are effective immediately. If the rates of COVID admissions and infections among our workforce increase further, additional precautions may be implemented.


April 29, 2022

UTMB staff and students are reminded to familiarize themselves with the masking policy that has been in effect since April 22, 2022.

  • Visitors, staff and students must wear appropriate face masks in all UTMB hospital facilities whenever there is a direct patient encounter, such as in patient rooms and procedure areas. Masking in other areas of the hospital will be optional. Cloth masks are not allowed in hospital settings.
  • Masking for patients, visitors and UTMB Health staff and students will be optional in ambulatory settings for asymptomatic patients and vaccinated faculty and staff.
    • Masking requirements during outpatient procedures and with specific high-risk groups of patients will be based on patient and employee safety protocols for the clinical environment and procedure being performed.
    • In emergency department waiting rooms, masking by patient is optional but those with COVID symptoms will be offered a mask. Staff interacting with any patients are required to be masked.
    • Patients in any UTMB Health ambulatory setting are welcome to request their providers wear a mask. 
  • Face masks are not required in non-clinical facilities, such as administrative, classroom and research buildings.

 


Additional clarifications are provided in the FAQs below:

Do I have to mask when seeing a patient in the hospital who does not have COVID?
Yes, masking is required when seeing patients in the hospital setting regardless of their COVID status. Areas of the hospital that require masking include the emergency department, inpatient rooms and procedure areas where there are direct face-to-face encounters. Masking is also required in hallways of inpatient units, at nursing stations, and in team meeting rooms.

When staff or visitors are walking through the hospital hallways or are in the elevator or in waiting rooms or at lunch in the breakroom or cafeteria, do they have to mask?
Masking is not necessary in these common areas of the hospital. Any encounter with a patient in this setting is considered incidental and brief.

Do I have to wear a mask when transporting a patient in the hospital? 
Yes, when transporting any patient in the hospital setting, both the patient and the transporting personnel should wear the appropriate face mask.

Do I have to mask in a hospital-attached facility, such as breast imaging, that serves outpatients?
Patients and visitors who are coming for outpatient procedures do not need to mask. Also, if these facilities provide only outpatient services, the staff do not have to mask. However, if these facilities serve both inpatient and outpatient populations (a mixed population), the staff must remain masked during all patient encounters. Furthermore, if these facilities perform procedures on the naso-oro-pharynx or are evaluating COVID patients, appropriate masking is required.

If I am not vaccinated against COVID and have obtained either a medical or religious exemption, am I required to mask when not performing clinical duties?
Yes, all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated employees must remain masked at all times when interacting with others and also when in common areas of the hospitals and clinics, including education, research, clinical or administrative buildings. Each employee with an approved COVID vaccine exemption has been provided with a personal communication on the masking requirement.

If I am attending an in-person meeting with my colleagues do I have to wear a mask and maintain social distancing? 
Yes, masking is required during social gatherings or professional meetings. Food and drinks should not be served. Social distancing or room capacity limits have been removed.

If I am attending a class or a meeting in non-clinical buildings, do I have to wear a mask? Yes, masking is required while attending an in-person class or any group meetings in all UTMB indoor facilities (clinical and non-clinical).

I have had COVID infection, and I am returning to work after five days because I am feeling better. Do I have to mask even though I do not work in clinical areas?
Policy on return-to-work after COVID infection has remain unchanged (https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19/employees-students/safety#details-sick). Based on antigen testing results and clinical improvement, employees can return to work after five days. However, they must wear a KN95 mask, N95 mask or double medical masks for an additional five days, and must take breaks alone in a separate room and cannot have any unmasked interactions. Antigen-positive individuals cannot care for immunocompromised patients, neonates or neonatal ICU patients.

I am immune suppressed. Should I wear mask in non-clinical areas?
People who are immune-suppressed or have high-risk health conditions are advised to mask in all settings when interacting with others. However, this is voluntary.

For additional questions, please contact Dr. Janak A. Patel, MD at jpatel@utmb.edu.

Gulshan Sharma, MD, MPH, FCCP
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical & Clinical Innovation Officer

Janak A. Patel, MD
Director, Department of Infection Control & Healthcare Epidemiology