Masks back at South Jersey hospital — are COVID mandates returning?
😷 A major Cape May County hospital is requiring staff to wear masks
😷 Visitors will be given masks and asked to wear them
😷 Is this a sign of things to come?
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A hospital in Cape May County is bringing back masks as New Jersey sees a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
Cape Regional Medical Center in Middle Township is requiring its staff to wear masks, Cape Regional Health System spokesperson Susan Staeger said.
"In response to an increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID at Cape Regional Medical Center as well as community members with COVID, Cape Regional Medical Center team members are wearing masks when providing direct patient care," Staeger said.
There is not yet a mandate for patients or visitors. However, they will each be given a mask and asked to wear it inside the hospital near patients and staff. The policy is intended to protect everyone in the building from the virus.
New Jersey has recorded a steady increase in cases since July.
The state Department of Health reported 3,435 cases for the week ending Sept. 9, which is nearly twice as many that were reported the week of Aug. 5. Cape May County is seeing the least COVID-19 cases per capita of any county.
Will New Jersey implement a mask mandate?
While Cape Regional is a private entity and made the decision independently from the state government, the rise in cases is happening throughout New Jersey. Other hospitals could follow suit.
Masks had been mandatory in hospitals and healthcare settings until this spring.
On April 3, 2023, Gov. Murphy signed an executive order lifting that mandate. At the time, New Jersey had around 1,600 cases, according to state data. It allowed hospitals to implement their own guidance if they wanted to bring masking back.
But New Jersey has previously erred on the side of caution with masking in hospitals. Masks stayed in New Jersey hospitals for over six months longer than was recommended at the national level. The CDC in September 2022 changed its guidance to only recommend masking in communities where transmission levels were high.
The state Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment from New Jersey 101.5 about the possibility of mask mandates returning.