The Perfect Enemy | As third anniversary of Covid-19 pandemic nears, Kansas City metro health systems remove mask requirements - KMBC Kansas City
February 17, 2024

As third anniversary of Covid-19 pandemic nears, Kansas City metro health systems remove mask requirements – KMBC Kansas City

As third anniversary of Covid-19 pandemic nears, Kansas City metro health systems remove mask requirements  KMBC Kansas CityView Full Coverage on Google News

Tuesday, March 7 marks three years since the first COVID case was reported in the metro. The anniversary coincides with many health systems relaxing their masking requirements.On Monday afternoon, HCA Midwest Health System confirmed to KMBC that masks are now optional for most of its visitors, patients, and staff. Saint Luke’s Health System also confirmed it had relaxed its masking guidelines on Friday, March 3.HCA Midwest Health provided a statement, saying:HCA Midwest Health has updated its universal masking policy based on the low COVID-19 Community Levels. Our policy is in alignment with Centers of Disease Control guidance that the intensity of COVID protection strategies should be based on the level of COVID-19 activity in the local community. Based on the CDC Community Level Metric, all HCA Midwest Health facilities have updated its masking guidelines, effective Monday, March 6, 2023, in which masks are now optional for most patients, visitors and colleagues in our facilities.The safety of our patients and colleagues remains a top priority. Colleagues who have not received the flu vaccination, colleagues caring for COVID-19 patients, patients who have upper respiratory illness, immunocompromised patients and colleagues and guest with symptoms of a viral illness will still be required to wear a mask. If a patient asks our colleagues to wear a mask while treating them, we will honor their request. We will continue to monitor Community Levels and will update our policy should they increase.Saint Luke’s provided a statement to KMBC Monday, saying:Due to low hospitalization levels of COVID-19, Saint Luke’s Health System has lifted its masking requirement for asymptomatic patients and visitors, with certain exceptions. Masking will still be required for symptomatic patients and visitors in Emergency Departments, hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical offices, and certain other high-risk units. We will continue to provide masks at our facilities for those who need or wish to wear one. Saint Luke’s will continue to monitor conditions, and revisit masking guidelines in the future as warranted.The University of Kansas Health System said it is currently reviewing its masking policy, and said it will announce any revisions on Wednesday.Dr. Dana Hawkinson of the University of Kansas Health System explained the relaxing of masking requirements. “This is what will happen: if that goes well, and the numbers don’t go up, and patients are safe, that’s going to be great. If the numbers go up, and patients aren’t safe, we’re going to have to put masks back on.”Dr. Hawkinson has been one of the faces of the COVID response in the metro for the duration of the pandemic.Dr. Steven Stites, the Chief Medical Officer for the University of Kansas Health System, is another. Both spoke with KMBC – fittingly, via Zoom, as they have reached so many in the metro – on Monday, the eve of the three year anniversary of COVID in the metro.Dr. Hawkinson reiterated how much the pandemic taught the world and the scientific community, saying “We have learned what we can do as a community, and as a country, when you have the resources to do that. We’ve learned how to increase our knowledge exponentially in a short period of time.” “I think we’ve learned a lot. I would be terrified if we hadn’t learn some thing over the last three years,” Elizabeth Holzschuh, the Director of Epidemiology for Johnson County, told KMBC. Dr. Stites said it slightly more colorfully: “We are still building the airplane while we fly it. If you take the clock back three years ago, he knew we knew nothing.”He continued with a list. “At the same time, we’ve learned so much about isolation,” he said, “what that means to young children, about the power of masking, about the complications of masking, all around social isolation.”Holzschuh, the director of epidemiology, said “I don’t know if we ever latched on to that opportunity to explain the ‘why’,” she said. “I think, moving forward, explaining the ‘why’ behind things is incredibly important for community members, or residents to understand, as were changing recommendations, as we’re changing things out of the norm of what’s been acceptable.”Metro healthcare workers have now seen hundreds of thousands of COVID cases. Holzschuh, the Director of Epidemiology, put it in perspective. “The majority of the population worldwide has been infected with a virus at least once,” she said.Some of those COVID cases turned deadly. The last COVID death the University of Kansas Health System recorded was on Feb. 23.Despite that, masking is going by the wayside at area hospitals. “I’m not going to say definitively that we’re endemic yet,” said Holzschuh. “I think that society as a whole has decided that we are endemic at this moment in time.”Zoom use may subside. As Dr. Stites said, “there is an energy that comes from coming together that zoom cannot replace, and I don’t know how to scientifically say that other than it’s good energy.”Regarding masking – at least two local health systems say they will keep their masking policies in place: University Health and Children’s Mercy.

Tuesday, March 7 marks three years since the first COVID case was reported in the metro. The anniversary coincides with many health systems relaxing their masking requirements.

On Monday afternoon, HCA Midwest Health System confirmed to KMBC that masks are now optional for most of its visitors, patients, and staff. Saint Luke’s Health System also confirmed it had relaxed its masking guidelines on Friday, March 3.

HCA Midwest Health provided a statement, saying:

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HCA Midwest Health has updated its universal masking policy based on the low COVID-19 Community Levels. Our policy is in alignment with Centers of Disease Control guidance that the intensity of COVID protection strategies should be based on the level of COVID-19 activity in the local community. Based on the CDC Community Level Metric, all HCA Midwest Health facilities have updated its masking guidelines, effective Monday, March 6, 2023, in which masks are now optional for most patients, visitors and colleagues in our facilities.

The safety of our patients and colleagues remains a top priority. Colleagues who have not received the flu vaccination, colleagues caring for COVID-19 patients, patients who have upper respiratory illness, immunocompromised patients and colleagues and guest with symptoms of a viral illness will still be required to wear a mask. If a patient asks our colleagues to wear a mask while treating them, we will honor their request. We will continue to monitor Community Levels and will update our policy should they increase.

Saint Luke’s provided a statement to KMBC Monday, saying:

Due to low hospitalization levels of COVID-19, Saint Luke’s Health System has lifted its masking requirement for asymptomatic patients and visitors, with certain exceptions. Masking will still be required for symptomatic patients and visitors in Emergency Departments, hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical offices, and certain other high-risk units. We will continue to provide masks at our facilities for those who need or wish to wear one.

Saint Luke’s will continue to monitor conditions, and revisit masking guidelines in the future as warranted.

The University of Kansas Health System said it is currently reviewing its masking policy, and said it will announce any revisions on Wednesday.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson of the University of Kansas Health System explained the relaxing of masking requirements.

“This is what will happen: if that goes well, and the numbers don’t go up, and patients are safe, that’s going to be great. If the numbers go up, and patients aren’t safe, we’re going to have to put masks back on.”

Dr. Hawkinson has been one of the faces of the COVID response in the metro for the duration of the pandemic.

Dr. Steven Stites, the Chief Medical Officer for the University of Kansas Health System, is another. Both spoke with KMBC – fittingly, via Zoom, as they have reached so many in the metro – on Monday, the eve of the three year anniversary of COVID in the metro.

Dr. Hawkinson reiterated how much the pandemic taught the world and the scientific community, saying “We have learned what we can do as a community, and as a country, when you have the resources to do that. We’ve learned how to increase our knowledge exponentially in a short period of time.”

“I think we’ve learned a lot. I would be terrified if we hadn’t learn some thing over the last three years,” Elizabeth Holzschuh, the Director of Epidemiology for Johnson County, told KMBC.

Dr. Stites said it slightly more colorfully: “We are still building the airplane while we fly it. If you take the clock back three years ago, he knew we knew nothing.”

He continued with a list. “At the same time, we’ve learned so much about isolation,” he said, “what that means to young children, about the power of masking, about the complications of masking, all around social isolation.”

Holzschuh, the director of epidemiology, said “I don’t know if we ever latched on to that opportunity to explain the ‘why’,” she said. “I think, moving forward, explaining the ‘why’ behind things is incredibly important for community members, or residents to understand, as were changing recommendations, as we’re changing things out of the norm of what’s been acceptable.”

Metro healthcare workers have now seen hundreds of thousands of COVID cases. Holzschuh, the Director of Epidemiology, put it in perspective. “The majority of the population worldwide has been infected with a virus at least once,” she said.

Some of those COVID cases turned deadly. The last COVID death the University of Kansas Health System recorded was on Feb. 23.

Despite that, masking is going by the wayside at area hospitals. “I’m not going to say definitively that we’re endemic yet,” said Holzschuh. “I think that society as a whole has decided that we are endemic at this moment in time.”

Zoom use may subside. As Dr. Stites said, “there is an energy that comes from coming together that zoom cannot replace, and I don’t know how to scientifically say that other than it’s good energy.”

Regarding masking – at least two local health systems say they will keep their masking policies in place: University Health and Children’s Mercy.