Whether you’re an employee at a Kaiser Permanente facility or a visitor, you’ll need a face mask to be on the premises.
Patricia Rodriguez, an executive with the health care giant, told The Sacramento Bee on Monday that Kaiser Permanente will be requiring all staff and visitors wear masks in all of its facilities, including its South Sacramento medical center, where a nurse launched an online petition last week to push for the change.
Hundreds of people signed the petition over six days, saying that doing so would help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the pathogen that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.
“The nurses here at South Sac want to have mandatory masking for all people entering the hospital and the clinic, and the upper leadership here at our facility is still not making it mandatory,” said registered nurse Diane McClure, who works at the facility.
McClure said hospital leaders told her that wearing masks was not mandatory in Sacramento County and that because it’s not a county mandate, they didn’t want to make it mandatory in the hospitals.
On Monday, Patricia Rodriguez, senior vice president and area manager at the South Sacramento medical center, responded to a Bee inquiry by saying Kaiser Permanente will enforce the requirement that masks be worn by visitors and staff in all facilities. She noted that the company has continued to evolve its practices to ensure the health and safety of all patients and staff, as medical professionals learn more about COVID-19 and as public health guidance evolves.
“Kaiser has limited visitation and implemented temperature checks and symptom screenings,” Rodriguez said.
Until now, she added, Kaiser strongly encouraged visitors and staff to wear face covering and most people complied.
McClure, the chief representative at the facility for the California Nurses Association union, said she started the petition after more than two weeks of appealing to management to implement mandatory masks at the facility.
She didn’t expect community residents to sign the petition as well, even though it was visible to the public at change.org. Normally, she said, they would have circulated a paper petition among nurses at the facility, but she decided to use the online site because she didn’t want to risk passing around germs along with the pens, paper and clipboards.
People who have COVID-19 but display no symptoms, so-called asymtpomatic carriers, can spread the new coronavirus in droplets released when they cough, sneeze or talk. The pathogen-laden droplets land on other people or on common surfaces that others touch.
“All kinds of people who are asymptomatic with COVID can come in and infect people without any symptoms at all,” McClure said, “and it makes no sense not to go ahead and take precautions, have everyone who is in the facility — all staff and all visitors and patients — wearing these masks.”
Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face covering to reduce the chance that wearers will release virus-laden droplets that could infect others. Also critical, the CDC said, is maintaining 6 feet of distance between people, as most droplets can’t travel that far.
McClure said she checked with nurses at other local hospitals and could find only two that don’t require masks: the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center at 6600 Bruceville Road and the Kaiser Sacramento Medical Center at 2025 Morse Ave.
Media representatives at Sutter Health, CommonSpirit Health and UC Davis Health said that masks are generally required when people enter their facilities.
“There are some exceptions, such as for children younger than 2 years of age and people who cannot easily remove a mask on their own should it become necessary,” said Charles Casey, a spokesperson for UC Davis Health, “or those who are sitting alone in a clinic exam room or office, or while eating, or are at least 6 feet away from others at all times.”
McClure said a number of Kaiser staff had been opting not to wear masks.
“I’m here working today (Monday), and there are people all over the place not wearing masks because they don’t have to do it,” she said. “Sure, the masks are annoying and people get tired of wearing them. They say, until it’s made mandatory, they’re not going to do it.”