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Masks still needed at several Long Island hospitals after state mandate sunsets

Masks hang from an IV pole at a hospital.
Jenny Kane
Masks hang from an IV pole at a hospital.

Masks are still needed at several Long Island hospitals after a statewide mandate expired on Sunday.

New York allowed its state mask mandate for hospitals and other healthcare settings to sunset on Feb 12. This lapse will end the requirements put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — another signal of the beginning of a post-pandemic world, as New York’s coronavirus rates have continued to decline for thepast two months.

Statewide mask mandate existed five months after the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased national masking requirements in Sept. 2022. It covered hospitals, nursing homes, hospice agencies, and diagnostic and treatment centers.

A spokesperson for Northwell Health, the state’s largest healthcare system, said they will continue to require masks in their facilities “and are continually monitoring the situation.”

Their current policy mandates that “visitors will perform hand hygiene, wear a hospital-issued procedural mask and wear other personal protective equipment (PPE) if necessary. Visitors two years of age and older who can tolerate a mask are asked to comply with the masking requirement.”

The state Department of Health continues to advise medical facilities and hospitals to follow CDC guidelines based on community infection levels, instead of vaccination status. Without a state order, individual medical centers are allowed to set up their own rules for handling mask requirements.

Stony Brook University Hospital’s visitor policy also remains the same. It requires that “everyone — patients, visitors, employees, students, vendors — must still wear well-fitting masks covering the nose and mouth in all Stony Brook Medicine hospitals, patient-care settings and off-site clinic locations.”

“We appreciate that lots of families would like the mask mandates lifted, but for the safety of our patients, as well as those providing their care and the family members that are associated with any patients that are ill, we feel right now it’s more prudent to continue with the mask mandate in those areas and to see how the next few days and weeks change with regard to new infections,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

Xenia Gonikberg is a former news intern at WSHU.