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Alabama’s hospitals, nursing homes urge mask usage, issue reminders on visitation

Special to the Enquirer  

While Alabama’s mask mandate expires Friday, the Alabama Nursing Home Association and the Alabama Hospital Association are joining Gov. Kay Ivey and others in calling on Alabamians to continue wearing masks to help the state sustain its progress in fighting COVID-19.  

“We have made tremendous progress as a state, and we need to keep moving forward,” said Alabama Nursing Home Association President and CEO Brandon Farmer. “Research has shown that increasing community cases of COVID-19 lead to increased cases in nursing homes.  

Thanks to the vaccine and infection control practices, we have seen a dramatic decline in cases and have been able to open our doors to more visitors. Continuing to wear masks until the vaccine is widely available will help us lower the community spread.”  

Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson noted the number of COVID-positive hospital patients has declined significantly. 

“We realize that people are ready to leave their masks at home, but we can’t let up and risk another surge of the virus – not when we’ve come this far,” Williamson said. I hope Alabamians will continue to wear masks, keep a safe distance and get their vaccine when it’s offered. These are the precautions that will keep us safe and help us more quickly return to normal.” 

Both Association leaders said masks will continue to be an important weapon in decreasing the spread of the virus in healthcare facilities. According to federal regulations, hospitals and nursing homes will have to continue to require masks for visitors following the expiration of the mandate.  

“We urge other businesses to follow suit in requiring masks for their employees and patrons,” Farmer said. 

When it comes to visiting nursing homes and other facilities, the amended Safer at Home Order updated in early March increased the number of visitors allowed in healthcare facilities to two; however, all healthcare facilities operate under additional directives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that mandate certain precautions be taken with COVID-positive patients, as well as those who are not positive and are not showing any symptoms. 

“We realize restricting visitors has been traumatic for patients, families and healthcare workers alike, and hospitals and nursing homes have done all they could to make use of available resources to connect families and comfort patients,” Williamson said. “To prevent further spread of the virus, our facilities are required to take additional precautions and to limit visitation when certain conditions exist.”