Mask Regulation Questions and Answers**
What are the regulation's main provisions?
The regulation requires personnel who are not vaccinated against influenza wear a surgical or procedure mask during the influenza season while working in areas where patients are typically present. The mask requirement will begin and remain in effect during the period when the NYS Commissioner of Health determines that influenza is prevalent or the hospital epidemiologist determines that this measure is required. The beginning and end of influenza season varies from year to year.
Who issued this regulation and when did it go into effect?
The regulation proposed by the NYS Department of Health, was adopted, and became effective on July 31, 2013. It applies to any healthcare facility, residential facility or agency licensed under Article 28 of the Public Health Law.
Who must wear a mask at Upstate under the new regulation?
The regulation applies to all personnel who are unvaccinated for influenza for the current influenza season and are affiliated with Upstate University Hospital or ambulatory care settings licensed under Article 28 of the Public Health Law. Personnel may be paid or unpaid and include, but not limited to employees, members of the medical and nursing staff, contract staff, students, and volunteers, and others who engage in activities such that if they were infected with influenza they could potentially expose patients to the disease.
What is the purpose of the regulation?
The regulation is intended to protect patients from acquiring influenza from infected healthcare workers. The regulation has the added benefit of protecting healthcare workers who are unvaccinated from acquiring influenza from their patients.
Where and when do masks need to be worn by personnel for whom it is required under this regulation?
Masks should be worn wherever and whenever an unvaccinated healthcare worker might expose patients to influenza. This would include, but not be limited to, patient rooms, nurses' stations, hallways and elevators where patients are typically present, as well as cafeterias and food service areas if patients may be present (except when the unvaccinated healthcare worker is eating).
How will it be known who must wear a mask?
Vaccinated personnel will be issued a designated symbol (e.g., dot) to be displayed on the front of the Upstate ID badge indicating that mask use is not required. Upon notification, certain employees, have the option of showing their Employee Health vaccination verification card upon request instead of displaying a dot.
What if I cannot provide evidence of vaccination?
No matter what the reason may be, personnel not demonstrating verification of influenza vaccination will be required to don a surgical or procedure mask over the nose and mouth in areas where patients are typically present.
What types of masks can be worn to meet the requirements of this regulation?
This regulation requires use of either surgical or procedure masks. Use of N95 respirators to meet the requirements of this regulation is neither required nor recommended, although N95 respirators should be used when indicated for other reasons.
When wearing a mask under this regulation, how often does the mask need to be changed?
Masks should be changed after leaving the room or completing care of a patient/resident on isolation precautions or whenever it is soiled or might have become soiled.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Free influenza vaccinations will be provided by Employee/Student Health. If a health care provider or pharmacist administers your influenza vaccination, documentation must be provided to ESH for your health record and a dot will be issued indicating that mask use is not required.
What is acceptable documentation for confirmation of influenza vaccination elsewhere?
A document prepared by the provider that administered the vaccine specifying the formulation and the date. In the case of contract personnel and students, an attestation from the employer or school that the employee or student has been vaccinated and that the employer or school maintains the required documentation.
Does this apply to visitors?
If a person did not receive an influenza vaccine but already had influenza this influenza season, is that person still required to wear a mask?
Yes, since more than one strain of flu can circulate during the flu season. Influenza vaccines generally contain three strains of influenza virus.
It takes one to two weeks after vaccination to develop protective immunity. Do I need to wear a mask during this period?
No, not under the requirements of this regulation.
Do staff members who routinely interact with personnel who could potentially expose patients or residents to influenza but who don't meet such criteria themselves need to wear a mask?
No. The requirement only applies to personnel who could directly expose patients.
If a person has a medical exemption to influenza vaccination, does that person have to wear a mask?
Yes. The purpose of this regulation is to prevent influenza transmission to patients and therefore applies regardless of the reason a person is not vaccinated.
How will these regulatory requirements be enforced by healthcare facilities, residential facilities and agencies?
Each organization must comply with this regulation, just as the organization assures that healthcare personnel must be immunized against measles and rubella. Any violation of this policy by an employee may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Any violation of this policy by a non-employee (student, volunteer, vendors) may result in removal from campus. Staff observing lack of compliance with this policy should report the violation immediately to their supervisor, and if unavailable, to the Administrative Supervisor.
*References: New York codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 10, section 2.59 Administrative Policy: CAMP-30, Prevention of Influenza Transmission