As winter moves into spring and we all enjoy the beautiful weather, Austin Regional Clinic moves to the next stage of managing infection risk in ARC clinics.
We are through the worst of the fall and winter respiratory season, where we experienced a significant surge of both influenza and RSV infections. Masking helped us reduce the transmission of these infections, along with reducing the transmission of COVID-19. Now, there is evidence of significant improvement with lower positivity rates of influenza and RSV in our community.
At the same time, we continue seeing higher levels of immunity to COVID-19 in our community, either from vaccination or prior infection. As a result, for most people, COVID-19 is now a much milder illness, and severe COVID-19 infection or hospitalization is much less common.
After discussions with other healthcare experts and review of guidelines from local and national authorities, ARC plans to adjust our masking policy for our physicians and staff, due to the dramatically improved rates of severe infection. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are balancing our approach, making decisions based on scientific evidence and local infection rates.
We thank all of our providers and staff for continuing to wear masks, day after day for three years, to keep our patients and each other safe. We thank you for following our masking recommendations as they continue to change. We will continue to welcome and support those who want to continue masking due to their medical needs or personal preference.
Here is ARC's adjusted masking policy, effective March 13:
- We will transition from mandatory to optional masking for our staff and physicians.
- We will continue to recommend masking during specific situations.
- We will be happy to put on a mask during your visit, if you ask us.
- We will continue to wear a mask when evaluating patients with respiratory symptoms, with significant immune deficiency, and at your request.
- We will continue to ask patients with respiratory symptoms to wear a mask.
- We will continue to encourage anyone at higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications to wear a mask.
- We will continue to monitor scientific data, infection rates, and both local and national guidelines to adjust our approach.
We look forward to seeing each other's smiles again!