Accountable Healthcare - States lift COVID-19 rules in healthcare settings
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March 6, 2023

States lift COVID-19 rules in healthcare settings

California, Washington and Oregon plan to end healthcare worker COVID-19 requirements, effective April 3.

State officials in California announced the changes, which include an end to its healthcare worker vaccination and masking requirements, March 3 as the state ends its state of emergency declaration; they will take effect April 3.

In Oregon and Washington, officials have also announced they plan to lift masking requirements in healthcare facilities, according to ABC affiliate KATU.  

"Our communities did a lot of the hard work by getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home and testing when sick, requesting treatments when positive and masking to slow the spread," California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón, MD, DrPH, said in a news release. "With these critical actions and a lot of patience and persistence, we have now reached a point where we can update some of the COVID-19 guidance to continue to balance prevention and adapting to living with COVID-19."

Among the changes in California is the end of the state's masking requirement in indoor high-risk and healthcare settings, including healthcare, long-term care and correctional facilities as well as homeless, emergency and warming and cooling centers. 

Also beginning April 3, California will end its vaccination requirement for healthcare workers, including those in adult care, direct care, correctional facilities and detention centers, state officials said. 

The monthlong delay is meant to "allow local health departments and facilities to develop and implement plans customized to their needs and local conditions to continue to protect Californians through the end of the winter virus season," according to the public health department.

The California Nurses Association is condemning the state's plans to lift masking and vaccine requirements in healthcare settings. 

Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of the union, said in a March 3 news release that the move "is a counterproductive and unscientific approach to curbing the spread and evolution of COVID-19. This decision endangers the health and safety of nurses and other healthcare workers, hurts their ability to access personal protective equipment from employers, and ultimately exacerbates the healthcare staffing crisis that political leaders have vowed to tackle."

The union said it will alert California hospitals and clinics where their members work to management's continued responsibilities to protect nurses and healthcare workers.

In addition to lifting the masking and vaccination requirements, California also plans to rescind an order that required hospitals to accept transfer patients from facilities with limited intensive care unit capacity as needed, effective April 3. 

Oregon Health Officer Dean Sidelinger, MD, said moving forward, he expects hospitals in the state to recommend mask use as needed. The state's rescission of its mask mandate extends to workers, patients and visitors in hospitals, mobile clinics, ambulances, outpatient facilities, dental offices, urgent care centers and school-based health centers.