By Jack Phillips
Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, California, on Aug. 24 reversed a recent policy that would require masks in its hospital after it reinstated the mandate days before. A Hollywood studio also said it would do away with its mandate.
Officials for the hospital system told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that the mask policy applies only to staff, not patients. It said that it is “strongly encouraging masks for patients, members, and visitors in the hospital and medical offices in the Santa Rosa Service Area in response to this latest increase in COVID-19 cases.”
“Our intent was to communicate that as of Tuesday, we have expanded the masking requirement for our employees and physicians to medical offices and clinic settings; we apologize for any confusion among Press Democrat readers,” Kaiser said in its latest statement.
The statement also said that “visitors, patients, and members are strongly encouraged to also wear masks in these settings,” according to the paper. “We have not changed our masking requirements in the hospital, which have been in effect since April: employees and physicians are required to wear masks and we ask visitors to wear masks when in the hospital.”
It doesn’t appear that Kaiser Permanente, which operates hospitals across the United States and California, would also attempt to reinstate mask mandates at other locations.
Days before its latest statement, the hospital system said it would be mandating masks for patients, doctors, patients, visitors, and staff members at its hospital and medical offices.
“Kaiser Permanente Northern California is committed to protecting the safety of our members, patients, employees, physicians, and visitors, which includes taking appropriate steps to prevent the spread of transmissible infectious diseases in our facilities,” it told local media.
Some Northern California locals weren’t happy with the announcement that mask mandates would return, according to local outlets.
“They told us a bunch of [expletive],” Richard Staudinger, a North Sacramento resident, told CBS. “I think most of the people don’t believe it now.”
Another, Craig Roberts, said, “I think it’s more political than anything, just think they’re trying to do what they did in 2020.”
But some said they don’t mind the mandates. “I don’t have a problem if they reinstate the masks,” Kiona Cooper, of Northern California, said.
Meanwhile, the Lionsgate film studio in Santa Monica also said it would not be implementing a mask mandate, days after the media company said it would force workers to put on masks again on certain floors. It claimed that it never changed its mask policy.
“The LA County Department of Public Health notified us yesterday that we could lift the mask requirements, effective immediately, and we have,” the firm told news outlets over the weekend.
The statement also said: “Lionsgate never changed its own mask policy. The LA County Department of Health ordered us to institute the temporary masking requirement after we reported a cluster of COVID cases to them and we have an obligation to comply with their orders.”
Last week, a Lionsgate memo stated that employees on only certain floors have to wear surgical masks, KN95 masks, or N95 masks “except when alone in an office with the door closed, actively eating, actively drinking at their desk or workstation, or if they are the only individual present in a large open workspace.”
Earlier in the month, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that COVID-19 hospitalizations rose across the country. Hospitalizations rose by 21.6 percent, to 12,612 new admissions from 10,370, according to the data ending Aug. 12.
Despite the increase, it’s among the lowest levels of hospitalization recorded since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
“An upswing is not a surge; it’s not even a wave,” Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, told ABC News. “What we’re seeing is a very gradual and small upward trajectory of cases and hospitalizations, without deaths really going along, which is great news.”
At the same time, several hospitals, including some in upstate New York, and Morris Brown College in Atlanta reimplemented mask mandates, prompting concerns about a broader effort to force masks on people, three years after the start of the pandemic in the United States. Media coverage around the small increase in COVID-19 cases has also focused on whether masks should be worn, with mainstream outlets such as CNN interviewing doctors who say people should start wearing them again.
But some politicians and commentators, in response, called on supporters to resist the mandates.
“It’s alarming that the mandates are kicking in again,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a recent interview. “It’s like, OK, we noticed masks didn’t work, particularly for children. We always knew they didn’t work for kids.”
It also comes as President Joe Biden on Aug. 25 told reporters in Lake Tahoe that he signed off on a proposal “to present to Congress a request for additional funding for a new vaccine that is necessary, that works.”