Universal masking is recommended at all Great Plains Health facilities, but it is no longer required for patients, visitors and employees.

This decision comes after consideration of community transmission of COVID-19 in Lincoln County, GPH spokeswoman Mary Roberts said. COVID-19 transmission is no longer at a high level now, and the lower rate has been sustained for two weeks, according to the Center for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker.

Most of the United States has low level of COVID-19 transmission, the CDC says, although a few hot spots remain, including Cherry and Garden counties in Nebraska, according to CDC information that was released on Feb. 16.

Most of the U.S. is in the green, representing low COVID-19 transmissibility, the CDC said Feb. 16. Yellow represents medium transmissibility and red is high.

Should community transmission increase to a high level again, required universal masking will be immediately be required, Roberts said.

Great Plains Health will continue to offer masks at all entrances for those who wish to wear one, and the will be available if the universal masking policy is reinstated.

Roberts said GPH follows rigorous infection control standards and ongoing strategies that meet requirements set by regulatory agencies, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Adhering to CMS regulations enables GPHealth to provide care to patients under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“Patient safety is our top priority, and masking was a key tool in ensuring that we helped protect vulnerable populations within our facilities throughout the pandemic,” Chief Executive Officer Ivan Mitchell said. “Data indicates we are at the point where we can re-consider masking requirements, while still utilizing rigorous mitigation strategies.”

Visitors should refrain from visiting if they:

  • Have had a positive test for COVD-19 in the last 10 days.
  • Have a pending COVID-19 test.
  • Have symptoms of COVID-19, including chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea.

Visitors are permitted at the hospital but should wear a mask if they have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 for 10 days after that person’s exposure.

Patients should also mask if they have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection or other respiratory infections with symptoms such as runny nose, coughing or sneezing.

Based in North Platte, GPH is a fully accredited, 116-bed acute-care regional medical center serving western and central Nebraska, northern Kansas and southern South Dakota with 90 physicians representing nearly 30 medical specialties.

© 2023 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.

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