Hampton Roads hospitals urge masking, citing rise in flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases

Published 11:46 am Friday, January 26, 2024

On Thursday, all six hospital groups in Hampton Roads issued a joint masking recommendation based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing a sharp rise in cases of flu, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory illnesses throughout the area.

In the joint statement released by Bon Secours, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of the King’s and Daughters, EVMS Medical Group, Riverside, and Sentara, they strongly recommend all patients and visitors, including those seeking outpatient services, wear masks inside hospitals, medical facilities, and physician practices. 

All patients and visitors, even those who have already received their annual flu shot and are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, are strongly encouraged to wear masks inside healthcare facilities. 

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The joint statement also said masking provides an added layer of protection from respiratory illnesses, even for those vaccinated.

Additional measures to limit the spread of disease, especially the flu, include washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, getting vaccinated, and coughing into sleeves or tissues.

“As healthcare providers, our collective goal is to protect the community from sickness and disease,” the joint release said. “Data suggests an infected person can spread a respiratory virus 24 hours before showing signs or symptoms. This community-wide recommendation helps protect our patients, visitors, and staff from exposure to flu, COVID-19, and RSV, even before symptoms are noticeable.”

The groups also ask individuals experiencing respiratory illness-like symptoms to stay home and avoid visiting patients at area hospitals. Symptoms of respiratory illness include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The recommendation to wear a mask when entering healthcare facilities will remain in effect for as long as reports of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV remain elevated.