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Mask Wear Policy

Effective January 2, 2024

This policy is not specific to COVID-19. It is the standard policy for the prevention of all respiratory infections.

Masking is encouraged for staff, patients, and visitors in all clinical spaces at Walter Reed, especially during times when the risk of respiratory illness is increased such as the annual flu season. 

Masks are REQUIRED when:

  • An individual has new symptoms of a respiratory illness (fever, cough, sneeze, runny nose, congestion). New symptoms are those that have started in the past 10 days, or for those with chronic symptoms, increased severity or change in baseline symptoms within the past 10 days.
  • An individual has an acute respiratory infection or was exposed to someone with COVID-19, flu, or RSV infection within the last 10 days. Exposure is when someone is within 6 feet of an unmasked person with a COVID-19, flu, or RSV infection for more than 15 minutes or they have unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions or excretions of a person with a COVID-19, flu, or RSV infection. 
  • An individual has been told to wear a mask by public health authorities.
  • An individual is visiting or caring for someone with a transmittable respiratory infection on isolation.
  • An individual is interacting with high-risk or immunocompromised patients in the inpatient setting (i.e., 5W, NICU, PICU, MICU, SICU) or outpatient infusion center, unless otherwise stipulated by the service clinical leadership and Infection Prevention and Control team.
  • A patient requests that their care team members wear masks. 

Patients with a flu-like illness or a diagnosis of COVID-19 should:

  • notify their care team
  • wear an appropriate, well-fitted mask
  • socially distance from others
  • limit their waiting time in common areas to the greatest extent possible

Authorization to implement more restrictive masking policies is reserved at the department and patient care-area levels and higher, based on medical, public health, and locally determined risk assessments. Hospital-wide changes to mask wear will be determined by review of public health data, Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level, and the current respiratory virus community burden in consultation with Infection Prevention and Control, Public Health, Occupational Health, and Infectious Diseases.
Don't forget to keep your family's information up-to-date in DEERS.