Sonoma Valley Sun


Sonoma County to health officers: put your mask back on

Posted on September 19, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma County’s Health Officer today issued an order requiring health care personnel to wear a mask when in patient care areas, a safety measure to be in place throughout the respiratory virus season, which runs from Nov. 1 through April 30.

The order applies to staff at health care facilities including hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, infusion centers, dialysis centers, skilled nursing facilities, portions of long-term care facilities where nursing care is provided, and other facilities where patient care is provided indoors.

“Each year we see that higher rates of influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses that can cause severe respiratory infections occur annually between late fall and spring,” said Dr. Karen Smith, Sonoma County’s Health Officer. “Patients and residents in our health care and congregate facilities, especially young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions, are at greater risk for respiratory virus-related hospitalizations and death.”

Additionally, workers in direct care, health care, and congregate facilities are at risk for respiratory illness and can transmit the viruses to their clients, patients, and coworkers.

Dr. Smith also issued guidance for the general public today, strongly recommending that everyone six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this winter. Influenza vaccination is also recommended for everyone 6 months old and older.

Vaccination remains the best protection against respiratory virus infections. Dr. Smith also recommends that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings when the COVID or influenza risk in Sonoma County is high.

Dr. Smith warned that the co-occurrence of influenza season with a possibility of another late fall/winter surge of COVID-19 may increase the risk of health systems being overwhelmed with patients with critical respiratory illness. Moreover, respiratory virus-related illness in health care workers can cause absenteeism, placing further strain on our limited health care resources.

The risk to vulnerable patients of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory viruses in health care settings, including skilled nursing facilities, remains significant, and it continues to be important for face masks to be used in patient care areas when seasonal risk of exposure to respiratory viruses is at its highest.

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