ST. ALBANS CITY — Despite the announcement of new CDC guidelines allowing for the optional use of masks, officials at Northwestern Medical Center are making it clear that those rules do not yet apply to healthcare facilities.

Jonathan Billings, vice president of Community Relations & Planning at Northwestern Medical Center says we’re on a path out of the pandemic but we’re not completely out of it yet.

“When people saw the first headline regarding masks people were excited and it’s like, ‘Ok, let’s clarify where you can and where it makes sense,’” says Billings. “So, we’re continuing to practice social distancing and the wearing of masks and face coverings as we begin to expand visitation and foot traffic within the facilities.”

This means staff at Northwestern Medical Center and in Northwestern Medical Group practices will continue to wear surgical masks. As well, patients and visitors must wear either cloth face coverings or surgical masks.

“Potentially we have a higher percentage of folks who may be at risk within our facility. So you need to be a little more cautious in that setting. At the same time we have people who are ill from diseases who are at much more serious risk should they contract Covid,” says Billings.

NMC is also continuing to practice social distancing within both its in-patient and out-patient facilities.

“We’ve gotten very good guidance. They’ve served us very well and have helped keep the hospital staff and the community safe with their very considered approach. We will continue to listen to Dr. Levine and the federal experts on how to proceed,” he says.

Medical facilities — with some exceptions for medical need — will continue to check vaccination cards.

Changes to services are also likely to be noticeable.

“We’re working through a process of normalizing services, reinstituting the visitation and our volunteers who are vaccinated are now returning to service inside the hospitals. We’re changing some of our medical procedures here to bring more of the care back into the primary care offices directly,” he says.

Billings also says that remote appointments likely won’t be going away anytime soon.

“I think telemedicine is likely here to stay, where the cases of telemedicine is good and convenient. It’s nice to be able to bring people back in person as well,” he says.

Billings says that for patients the message is that it’s safe at the hospital.

“We are taking proper precautions to preserve safety. We strongly encourage anyone who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated. But continue to use good judgement and be attentive to the guidelines and precautions that the health department recommends because they’ve served us well so far,” he says.

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