By Freddy Groves
Masks at VA Facilities not Gone
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that they were relaxing the requirement for masks to be worn at all VA medical facilities. But if you heard on the news that the mask requirement is gone, it's not necessarily so.
There is now a three-tier safety system whereby each facility is rated as high, medium or low for Covid transmission problems, and each facility will be monitored weekly for any updates or changes.
So what does it mean if your facility ranks as high for Covid risk? I checked a half dozen VA facilities in my state, and all were ranked high. That means everyone has to wear a mask, they might screen for Covid at the door, only approved visitors can come in, physical distancing is required, and you should ask your care team about options for phone or video appointments instead of going in.
Sounds like nothing's changed over the past few years.
So I picked another state. Most were at a high level, but I did see a few rated medium. For those, the facility itself will decide based on what's going on in the area. Care partners will be welcome, but no other visitors.
Then there's the Off-stage and On-stage middle-of-the-pack medium mask category. For Off, it's any area where patient care is not being performed, like hallways and admin areas. For On areas, masks are required in patient rooms and anywhere patients are being provided care.
After much looking, I finally found a VA facility rated as low. The rule is simple: You must wear a mask if veterans are present. Read the signs when you go in so you'll know.
Bottom line: A mask might be required no matter what level facility you enter. Tuck one into your pocket just to be sure you have it handy.
To check the Covid safety level at any VA medical facility you visit, look at their website for their rating. See www.va.gov/find-locations for the list of locations.
(c) 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.
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