Sanford Health and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society are requiring caregivers and providers to wear surgical facemasks at all times while in clinic and care settings. Sanford and the Good Samaritan Society are intensifying infection control measures to protect patients, residents and health care staff during this rapidly evolving and widespread COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our knowledge regarding COVID-19 is rapidly expanding. This allows us the opportunity to update personal protective equipment policies to incorporate the best evidence,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., chief medical officer of Sanford Health. “This proactive action will help minimize virus transmission from people who may carry COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms.”

The new requirements apply to Sanford Health providers working in inpatient units, ambulatory clinics and procedural areas and all Good Samaritan Society caregivers who work in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, home health and hospice.

Providers caring for presumed or known positive COVID-19 patients will continue to wear N95 respirators or PAPRs.

“The universal masking strategy for caregivers is not a panacea,” Suttle said. “It must be accompanied by reuse of surgical facemasks and face shields, meticulous hand hygiene, proper mask use and strict avoidance of touching the mask to reduce the risk of contamination.”

Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society currently have an adequate stock of surgical masks for caregivers, but are following conservation measures to ensure a long-term supply ahead of an expected increase in COVID-19 cases. Providers can wear surgical masks for five days or five shifts if they are in good condition. Due to the nature of this rapidly evolving public health crisis, universal masking may be re-evaluated as supply availability and logistics change.