Three years after the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, two of North Carolina’s biggest healthcare providers have ended masking requirements at dozens of hospitals and hundreds of medical facilities.
The decision, effective today at 7 a.m., affects facilities operated by Atrium Health and Novant Health, both based in Charlotte.
On Monday, Atrium said the decision was made “after careful consideration and extensive review of scientific data.”
The decision applies to patients, visitors, medical staff and employees.
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In a separate statement, Novant said the decision was made in collaboration with other regional systems, including Wake Forest Baptist, CaroMont Health, Cone Health and Randolph Health.
The decision comes as the number of covid cases in North Carolina has fallen to the lowest level since March 2022.
State health officials reported 3,962 covid infections last week. That was down from a weekly total of 235,840 cases in January 2022, when the number of covid infections in North Carolina hit an all-time high.
Since the pandemic began, the state has reported 28,517 covid-related deaths.
As Covid numbers have declined, more North Carolina residents have opted to go maskless.
In January, the Biden administration released its plan to declare the pandemic officially ended as of May 11.
The end of masking at local hospitals will have exceptions.
Masking will still be required for people showing symptoms of respiratory infections and in areas where high-risk patients are being treated.
In addition, patients may request care providers wear masks during treatment and clinic visits.
Novant said people experiencing respiratory virus symptoms should not visit patients in hospitals.
To reduce the risk of contracting a respiratory illness, Novant recommends:
- washing hands with soap or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- not touching eyes, nose or mouth with the hands
- getting annual vaccines and booster shots as needed.