Boston-area residents critical of changes to medical rules requiring masks

While most people are recovering from the past three years of the pandemic, some in Bay State feel left behind as pandemic-era safety measures come to an end.

COVID-19 mask mandates were left alone on Friday as medical sites lifted mandates for patients and doctors alike to wear personal protective equipment that slows the spread of the novel coronavirus. .

“I don’t believe that I, already vulnerable, could be further harmed in a medical setting,” said Jennifer Ritz Sullivan, a Goshen resident whose disability puts her at increased risk of COVID-19. rice field. And demand to go to the doctor every week.

Massachusetts reported 979 new coronavirus cases in the past week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,038,680, according to the Department of Public Health. The state reported 15 new deaths from COVID-19 last week and a total of 174 hospitalizations.

When Ritz Sullivan first contracted the virus from her husband two weeks ago, she dreaded Mother’s Day, remembering her mother, who died of COVID-19 in December 2020. She said the man was wearing a mask, but was infected by another employee who was not wearing a mask while on duty.

The virus may be mild for some, but Ritz Sullivan says she’s “the sickest I’ve ever been” and worries the long coronavirus will cause more disability said.

For the past three years, Ritz Sullivan has been isolated from most of society, having her groceries delivered to her car instead of going into the store, and staying at home to minimize the risk of contracting the virus. rice field. But now she has to choose between getting the medical care she needs and potentially contracting the virus, she said.

“I know some people have mild symptoms, but for me, it’s the worst I’ve ever had. Everything from severe vomiting to cold symptoms. I got to do it for the first time in conjunction with the weekend, and the level of coolness I’m feeling right now is there, and there’s only so much I can do to protect myself, and I’m doing my best, but We can’t personalize our way out of public health,” she said.

Ritz Sullivan was part of a group of advocates who participated in a “virtual speech” last week calling for the state’s Department of Public Health to reinstate mask-wearing requirements in medical settings.

Activists met on Zoom to discuss changing requirements, drove vans carrying signs that read “Care, not Corona” around the Capitol and Public Health, and posted on the steps of the Capitol “We I do not agree with the spread of infection,” he held up a sign. “COVID At The Doctor” and launched a campaign to write letters to lawmakers and his DPH staff.

Surgeon General Robbie Goldstein said last week that lifting the state of emergency “is not the end of the coronavirus.”

Goldstein said the ministry decided to cancel the mission after careful consideration, consultation and consideration, according to a DPH spokesperson.

“The level of community transmission of COVID-19 as monitored by the CDC has declined across the Union, with no counties experiencing a concentration of infections since February of this year. , which is important for monitoring the status of hospitals and health care systems and can be used to identify when to implement preventive strategies such as masks. We have moved away from mask mandates to a strategy based on individual facility-level standards,” said DPH spokeswoman Anne Scales.

If the warning lights start flashing again, Goldstein says the Healy administration will develop an “aggressive” plan (possibly including mask mandates) to revive the COVID-19 prevention strategy. He said he plans to mandate facilities to do so.

He did not outline the criteria or trends that would drive national action, but said the ministry wanted to make “regional decisions” based on the conditions faced by hospitals and other facilities. Healthcare facilities must also continue to supply masks to staff, patients and visitors who need them.

Mass General Brigham released an update on its new mask-wearing policy last week, criticizing it for saying, “Patients can’t ask staff to wear masks because our policy no longer requires them.” bathed in Our system follows current public health recommendations,” reported the Boston Business Journal.

Disability advocacy groups said the policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I think DPH has the right to choose to lift the mask mandate, but if it does, the hospital will have a choice whether to enforce it or not, but hospitals cannot escape it because of the ADA. It is our duty to provide reasonable accommodation.” To persons with disabilities. And when someone has a disability and is at increased risk of COVID-19, it seems to us that the reasonable accommodations a patient can request are just textbook,” said the Disability Policy Consortium. executive director Colin Killick said.

The hospital has since updated this policy online with a new statement: “Mask-wearing is an appropriate medical intervention in some circumstances. In such circumstances, caregivers and/or patients will continue to wear masks in accordance with our policy. You can ask, but the provider will determine when and if masking is clinically necessary in a particular situation.

In addition to Mass General Brigham Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medicine, Beth Israel Lahey Health, and Massachusetts Memorial Health Hospital are among the hospitals that lifted mask mandates last week.

While some doctors and hospital staff will continue to wear masks out of personal preference, at least one member of Massachusetts General Brigham felt that unilateral mask-wearing was not enough.

Master’s student Jada Jones, an intern as a public health and radiology technical assistant at a Boston-based hospital, retired Thursday, the day before patients and other medical staff were allowed to unmask. bottom.

“We are just waiting for another major COVID-19 outbreak in the hospital to switch back to wearing masks. This is the new policy of Mas General Hospital.” From my point of view, it’s always necessary because the pandemic is never over,” she said.

Ms Jones said she regretted leaving the hospital where she first secured an internship in high school because of her interest in public health. Since then she has worked in other medical facilities, but in the final year of her Master of Public Health program she returned to MGH.

“This is not a disease that will magically disappear. We saw an increase in adverse vascular outcomes,” she said. “The disabled community is not telling us to go back to lockdown and force them to go home. , please do all you can to give them access.”

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts General Brigham said when asked that she cannot comment on individual employee issues due to hospital policy, but said: We are working on it,” he said.

“We are always taking appropriate precautions to protect all patients. Our policies are based on public health guidelines and those of infectious disease control experts. Universal masking is not medically necessary [sic] This is to protect patients from COVID-19,” said Michael Morrison, director of public relations at the hospital.

The Massachusetts Public Health Association and the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition have also warned against lifting the mandate.

“But a return to the pre-pandemic status quo could ignore important lessons learned and expose the Commonwealth to the scourge of the next major public health crisis,” said MPHA Deputy Director Oami Amarasingham. rice field.

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