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Masking

You will see changes this winter as respiratory viruses like flu, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and others become more common. These changes are to protect patients, visitors, and staff.

As of January 2, 2024, we have reached a high level of respiratory virus activity. You will see the following changes at Mass General Brigham:

  • Your care team and other staff will wear a facility-issued face mask during direct interactions with patients in patient rooms and other clinical care areas where direct care is provided.
  • Patients and visitors will be strongly encouraged to wear a facility-issued face mask during direct interactions with staff in patient rooms and clinical care areas where direct care is provided. Patients and visitors do not have to mask if they prefer not to.
  • Masking is not required in lobbies and other common areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have been monitoring respiratory virus activity (such as flu, COVID-19, RSV, and others) since the beginning of fall. You will see some changes at Mass General Brigham based on the respiratory virus level in the community:

  • Mild/moderate levels of respiratory virus activity in the community
  • High levels of respiratory virus activity in the community

See below for a more detailed explanation about what data is used to determine mild/moderate and high virus activity levels.

As of January 2, 2024, we are in the high level.

At the high level, you will see the following (in addition to all mild/moderate level interventions):

  • Your care team and other staff will wear a facility-issued face mask during direct interactions with patients in patient rooms and other clinical care areas where direct care is provided.
  • Patients and visitors will be strongly encouraged to wear a facility-issued face mask during direct interactions with staff in patient rooms and clinical care areas where direct care is provided. Patients and visitors do not have to mask if they prefer not to.
  • Masking is not required in lobbies and other common areas.

When we are back in the mild/moderate level later this winter or spring, we will no longer use targeted masking. You will continue to see:

  • Reminders to:
    • Get vaccinated.
    • Practice respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. This means covering your mouth when you cough/sneeze and washing hands afterwards.
    • Tell your care team if you are not feeling well before appointments.
  • Testing of patients with symptoms of respiratory viruses.

Regardless of the season or level of respiratory virus illness, patients should wear a mask if they:

  • Have a fever or other flu-like symptoms 
  • Have a known COVID-19 infection and are in their isolation period 
  • Have a known exposure to COVID-19 within the last 10 days

You should mask if you:

  • Have a fever or other flu-like symptoms 
  • Have a known COVID-19 infection and are in your isolation period 
  • Have a known exposure to COVID-19 within the last 10 days

No. Your care team will be masking when they are directly interacting with you in clinical care locations, such as patient rooms. Masking will not be required in common areas. These include waiting rooms, hallways, lobbies, and non-clinical locations.

At the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) in May 2023, state authorities reminded all healthcare organizations to develop their plans for the coming winter season. As part of our plan, patients will see changes when virus activity changes over the winter months.

There are no statewide mandates that determine what each health system must do. Each hospital/system is deciding how they would like to monitor the season.

All hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Mass General Brigham system will enact the same changes. A full list of Mass General Brigham members can be found on our website.

Other hospitals and healthcare facilities that are not part of the Mass General Brigham system may be taking a different approach to masking and other interventions this winter.

You may wear your own N95 respirator or mask. If you choose to do this, you must wear a facility-issued mask on top. We ask all patients who are wearing masks to do this because some patients are required to wear masks. By wearing one of our masks on top of your home mask, it helps us know that the mask you are wearing is clean and effective. Thank you for understanding.

We are committed to ensuring that patients can access medical care in a safe and appropriate manner. We always take appropriate precautions to protect all patients. Our policies are based on public health guidance and that of our infection control experts. There are circumstances when masking is an appropriate medical intervention. In those circumstances, caregivers and/or patients will continue to mask, per our policies. Patients can ask, but providers determine when and if masking in a particular situation is clinically necessary.

We will always consider any requests for accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Any requests of this nature should be made to your provider.

Mass General Brigham relies on a measure from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet).

ILINet has data from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 110 million patient visits were reported during the 2022–23 season.

ILINet monitors to see how common virus illness symptoms are. These are the symptoms of fever plus cough or sore throat. CDC provides this data broken down by geographic region. The country is divided into 10 regions. All Mass General Brigham locations are within Region 1.

Yes. These changes apply to all Mass General Brigham facilities and programs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we used universal masking (everyone wearing a mask throughout our facilities) because we had few other preventive measures or treatment options available. These include a lack of vaccines, COVID-19 treatments, and other measures. As we move into regular respiratory virus seasons, post-pandemic, we are targeting our use of a variety of preventive measures. These include targeted masking.

Our masking policies are based on rates of respiratory illnesses in our communities. When rates show a return to mild/moderate activity from respiratory viruses, our employees will no longer be required to mask as part of this policy. Masking may be required for other reasons unrelated to respiratory virus activity.

Updated January 2, 2024

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