UChicago Medicine returns to requiring staff to mask during patient interactions

The hospital reported COVID-19 cases are doubling for employees and patient cases are increasing across all locations.

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The University of Chicago Medicine located at 5841 S. Maryland, in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

UChicago Medicine is again requiring all employees to mask during patient interactions.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

UChicago Medicine is again requiring employees to wear masks when directly interacting with patients, hospital leadership told staff in a memo.

The new policy went into effect on Friday. The hospital strongly recommends patients and visitors also wear masks and are required to if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV.

“Based on our internal data, COVID cases amongst employees are doubling every week and patient cases have increased in all locations,” Dr. Emily Landon, the executive medical director for infection prevention and control at UChicago, said in the memo distributed Thursday.

“Starting on Friday, Sept. 15, masks will be required for all employees when in direct contact with patients. This includes all patient contact from triage or examination through to transportation and discharge,” she said.

Chicago had a daily average of 155 COVID-19 cases this week, down from 161 last week, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Hospitalizations are at a daily average of 12 for this week, slightly down from 13 last week.

UChicago employees who are asymptomatic aren’t required to wear masks in workrooms, break rooms, public areas and in meetings. Individuals at a higher risk for COVID-19 should strongly consider wearing N95 masks around others at all times, in and out of the medical setting, Landon said in the memo.

Northwestern Medicine has not changed its masking policy. Masks are optional for patients and only required for staff in certain clinical areas, a hospital spokesperson said. Patients must wear masks if they have COVID-like symptoms.

Cook County Health has continued requiring staff to wear masks around patients since May 2023, a spokesperson said. Masking is also required for visitors in patient rooms and for anyone around immunocompromised patients.

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