😷 Mask mandates are back at NJ hospitals

😷 Flu, RSV and COVID infection rates are rising

😷 Restrictions vary by hospital

New Jersey's major hospital groups are starting the New Year with new mask mandates.

While restrictions vary from hospital to hospital, the majority are now requiring that all staff, volunteers, patients and visitors wear a mask at all times inside the facility.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list New Jersey as one of eight states with "very high" levels of respiratory illness. That includes COVID, flu and RSV.

All hospitals in New Jersey are showing rising numbers of patients coming into the emergency room with respiratory symptoms and admissions for those symptoms are also on the rise.

Canva/Google Maps/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Google Maps/Townsquare Media illustration

Hospitalizations for COVID are also rising, now above 1,250, but that figure is still lower than last year and a mere fraction of the hospitalizations we were seeing at the peak of the pandemic.

Still, hospital administrators are hoping to prevent a further surge inside their own facilities by bringing back universal mask mandates.

Here is a roundup of the latest restrictions, according to information posted on each hospital groups website:

RWJBarnabas Health

Mask requirements are in place for hospital staff and patients are also encouraged to wear a mask

All visitors are required to wear face masks at RWJBarnabas facilities. Masks are being provided.

Some restrictions vary depending on the specific hospital or healthcare facility. Each location can be found at rwjbh.org.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick (RWJUH)

Hackensack Meridian

All patients, visitors and staff are required to wear a mask "during patient encounters."

The mask mandate is in place for all 18 HMH hospitals and all other medical facilities and doctor's offices.

The number of visitors may be restricted on a facility-by-facility basis depending on infection levels and other areas of risk.

(Hackensack Meridian Health)
Hackensack Meridian Health

Capital Health

Masks are now required in all areas "where there is active patient care being given."

Visitors are required to perform hand hygiene when necessary

Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton
Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton (Dennis Symons, midjersey.news)

Atlantic Health

Masks are being required for staff and volunteers within all facilities, including Morristown Medical Center.

Visitors may be required to wear a mask.

Restrictions on visitors are dependent on levels of disease transmission in communities where Atlantic Health facilities are located.

Morristown Medical Center Rooke Plaza (Atlantic Health)
Morristown Medical Center (Atlantic Health)

Will statewide mask mandates return in NJ?

State health officials have been warning about rising influenza, RSV and COVID infections and urging people to vaccinated. They have not proposed a return to universal masking statewide.

Gov. Phil Murphy has remained silent on the issue as well.

In order for Murphy to impose a statewide mask mandate similar to the ones he required during the pandemic, he would likely have to declare a new state of emergency and issue a separate executive order.

All of the executive ordered pertaining to COVID restrictions have been allowed to expire.

What about masking at private businesses?

Even without a universal mask mandate, private businesses are free to set their own policies.

This includes everything from restaurants and shopping centers to private unaffiliated medical facilities.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Many independent medical facilities, such as dentist offices, physical therapy centers and eyecare professionals have begun to require patients again wear a mask.

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