Guest Column: Why you need to continue bringing, wearing a mask in health care settings

Published 8:45 pm Friday, July 2, 2021

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Guest Column by Bob Ritz and Hijinio Carreon

COVID-19 vaccinations have led the way for many of us to return to a more normal way of living. It’s been several weeks since the Centers for Disease Control shared relaxed guidance on mask wearing indoors for those who are fully vaccinated. MercyOne hospitals are now able to welcome back limited visitors to see their loved ones, with some relaxed restrictions.

Bob Ritz

But, we still require you to wear a mask in our health care settings. Here’s why:

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There is limited data on vaccine protection in people who are immunocompromised. This means there are many potentially vulnerable people in our hospitals, treatment centers and care locations. Wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 continues to be recommended by both the CDC and OSHA.

COVID-19 still exists. There are 29 states in the U.S. with rising numbers of cases this week. As recently as this past Tuesday, 43 Iowans were hospitalized with their first infection of the virus, and a fourth of them were under the age of 40.

Hijinio Carreon

There are many people who are not vaccinated. As of June 30, only 45% of Iowa’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We understand certain medical reasons may prevent an individual from completing the vaccine series or prevent them from receiving the vaccine, yet our role in the health care industry is to protect every patient who enters our care facilities.

While vaccines offer some protection, the new, more highly contagious Delta variant can still spread rapidly among others. A county in Missouri saw a 210% spike in new cases during the month of June. Most of these cases were confirmed as the Delta variant, and most individuals needing to be hospitalized were not vaccinated.

We continue to encourage everyone who is able and qualifies to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and are the main reason for relaxed guidance by the CDC, as well as state and local governments. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, and people ages 12 and up are now eligible. Consider scheduling your vaccine appointment today.

MercyOne continues to thoughtfully review and evaluate changes to our COVID-19 safety guidelines as case rates decline and more people are vaccinated. We appreciate your cooperation by continuing to bring and wear your mask.

Bob Ritz is the president and CEO of MercyOne. Dr. Hijinio Carreon is the MercyOne chief medical executive.