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Masking becomes optional at Cleveland Clinic starting April 20

The Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavillion stands with the sun shining on its many windows.
Tim Harrison
Ideastream Public Media
The Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavillion stands with the sun shining on its many windows.

Beginning Thursday, masking will be optional for patients, visitors and caregivers at all Cleveland Clinic facilities.

“We’re going to be able to see each other's smiles, that our caregivers and our visitors and our patients are not going to be required or mandated to wear masks in our health care facilities across Cleveland Clinic anymore,” said Leslie Jurecko, chief safety, quality and patient experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

This is the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Clinic has had an optional policy on masking.

“Our patients and our community members and our caregivers still can wear a mask if they choose to, we’ll absolutely support that,” Jurecko said. “And if our patients would like us to wear a mask, we will definitely accommodate that as well.”

Being able to make masking optional shows that respiratory virus numbers are improving, she said.

Making masking optional is “great news” for communication along with the caregivers getting a break from masking, Jurecko added. Caregivers currently have to wear a mask for their eight to 12 hour shifts or even longer.

“It's a really nice chance to kind of applaud their commitment to health care and also to be able to communicate with our smiles again,” Jurecko said.

Masks will still be required in some circumstances, such as when working with immunocompromised patients, Jurecko said. There may also be instances where there may be a masking-required sign on an individual patient’s door.

In the fall, mandatory masking will likely be reinstated due to the possibility of respiratory viruses getting worse, Jurecko said. These viruses are not just COVID-19 but also influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, she said.

“We know that this could be just short lived throughout the summer months when our viral season is a little more suppressed, that we will go to more optional masking,” Jurecko said.

Cleveland Clinic looked at numbers for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses nationally and globally in making this decision, Jurecko said.

“We look at what's safe for both our caregivers and our patients that we're serving and decided now is the time,” she said. “So, you'll see many other health care organizations going in the same direction.”

Along with Cleveland Clinic, Akron Children’s Hospital made masking optional for all employees, patient, families and visitors on March 15, said Holly Pupino, senior corporate communications specialist, in a statement.

“Parents and visitors are encouraged to wear a mask if they have respiratory or flu-like symptoms, and a family member may request staff or providers wear a mask while providing direct patient care to their child,” Pupino said.

University Hospitals is currently reviewing its masking policy, but at this time, masks are required for all visitors at its facilities, said Carly Belsterling, senior media relations strategist for University Hospitals, in a statement.

“The safety of our patients, visitors and caregivers remains our top priority. UH will continue to follow local, state and federal safety recommendations,” its website stated.

As of August 2022, MetroHealthrequires all patients and visitors to wear a surgical or N95 mask in their facilities, even if they are vaccinated, its website stated.

“The Governor of Ohio has lifted the requirement for the public to wear face masks. MetroHealth is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination,” the website stated.

Although masking will be optional, Cleveland Clinic is not returning fully to how it was three years ago, Jurecko said.

“What we are doing is incorporating the learnings that we've had from the pandemic and able to provide an even safer environment based on what we learned,” she said.

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.
Alexandra is originally from Northeast Ohio, but that did not stop her from exciting and new adventures. Before interning at Ideastream Public Media, she interned at The Facts in Clute, Texas, in the summer of 2021.