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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

MultiCare’s Spokane hospitals require masks again until respiratory illness rates decline

The MultiCare Deaconess Hospital sign is shown in Spokane. Among the organizations facing revenue losses and staffing woes in the state in 2022 was MultiCare.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

MultiCare Health System reinstated its mask mandate Monday in Spokane-area facilities , including Deaconess and Valley hospitals, based on the past week’s rise in respiratory illnesses.

Masks will be required for patients, visitors and staff in all patient care areas inside both of those hospitals and in its emergency departments.

COVID-19 isn’t driving the decision. MultiCare passed a recommended threshold of regional emergency department visits for other respiratory diseases – including flu and respiratory syncytial virus – that led to the mask decision, said MultiCare spokesperson Kevin Maloney.

RSV is an infection with similar symptoms to COVID-19 and the flu.

At MultiCare Rockwood Clinics, masking is now required for employees and is strongly recommended but not required for patients and visitors. At high-risk clinics such as oncology, masking is required, Maloney said.

If Eastern Washington goes for two weeks without passing any of the recommended thresholds, the masking requirement can be lifted.

Providence Health officials said Monday that “there are currently no changes to its masking guidelines,” at either Spokane or Stevens County hospitals and clinics.

Masking still is optional in most cases for Providence patients and visitors at its Eastern Washington hospitals and clinics. Hospital caregivers are required to wear a mask when with patients. The system may widen masking policies “if we see high levels of respiratory viruses circulating in the community, such as influenza, RSV, and COVID-19.”

Earlier this month, the MultiCare system announced its hospitals in King, Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties began enforcing a mask mandate. Its Yakima Memorial Hospital reintroduced that requirement several weeks earlier.

To identify metrics for this year’s respiratory illness season, MultiCare worked with the Northwest Healthcare Response Network, a coalition of health care providers and public health experts that helps entities prepare for public health emergencies.

They developed criteria to reintroduce a mask mandate if any one of the following measurements occurs in hospitals:

  • COVID-19 admissions exceed 10 people per 100,000 population.
  • Regional emergency department visits for COVID-19 exceed 3% of total visits.
  • Regional emergency department visits for influenza exceed 1% of total visits.
  • Regional emergency department visits for RSV exceed 0.3% of total visits.