SAN ANTONIO – Have you had any fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, headache, chills, sore throat? It’s a question many of us are used to being asked by now, and what screeners at hospital lobbies are used to asking visitors.
Volunteer screeners at Methodist Hospital Texsan follow their questions with a temperature check and a mask reminder.
“We do ask that you keep your mask on through the entire visit while you’re here,” the screener said.
That comment about the mask is more important now than ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently made major changes to mask requirements for many places. However, those relaxed measures do not apply to hospitals, public transit or congregate settings, such as nursing homes or prisons.
“People can become confused, or they can forget, not realize health care has a different set of guidelines. So there is definitely some concern there,” said Rosa Lozano, the associate vice president of Infection Prevention for Methodist Health System.
Lozano said there are many reasons the CDC is still mandating that people across the country put on their masks when they’re about to walk into a hospital setting.
“In a hospital, we see much higher rates of patients with COVID,” Lozano said. “We’re also obligated to protect our health care workers.”
There are also many immunocompromised people whose medical conditions don’t allow them to get vaccines. Many of those people frequent hospitals.
Lozano says some people try to enter the hospitals without masks, and front door screeners are trained for those situations.
“Sometimes the issue is, ‘Oh, I forgot a mask in my car.’ We will offer a mask to any of our visitors, and if there’s still a reluctance to wear a mask, we re-state what the expectation is. The expectation is to wear a mask. If there is a continued reluctance, we encourage the person to visit their patient or family member virtually. We have a mechanism to allow virtual visitation,” Lozano explained.
She said the goal is to keep patients, the public, and health care workers safe. If screeners encounter a continued problem with someone, support staff members are available to them.
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