Guidance For Masks

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ST. LUKE’S WOOD RIVER MEDICAL STAFF AND
CARMEN JACOBSEN, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER/CNO, SLWR

On Thursday, May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidelines and announced that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks and resume normal activities, with some specific exceptions. The revised CDC guidelines are based on “a growing body of evidence that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.”

What is not yet known, and under investigation, is how well the vaccines protect against emerging variants or how long protection from the vaccine will last.   

It is encouraging to be able to resume activities and to be able to see each other’s smiling faces.

The CDC’s recommendations have caused some confusion and concern, particularly around relaxing mask guidance for indoor activities since it is not possible to determine whether a person is vaccinated or not without requesting verification.

As you think about resuming normal activities and whether to wear a mask or not, we ask that you take the following into consideration:

There isn’t an easy way to identify who has been vaccinated and who has not. Our community will not be requiring vaccine passports or other means to verify vaccination status.

South Central Public Health District has provided vaccination rates for the cities within Blaine County, and it varies significantly. Sun Valley and Ketchum are at least 50% higher than Hailey, Bellevue and Carey. We are a mobile community, and the total vaccination rate should be considered.

Individuals in the 12–15-year-old group just became eligible to be vaccinated on Wednesday, May 12. It will take time (a minimum of 6 weeks) before this group begins to be fully vaccinated and protected. Children under the age of 12 are not able to be vaccinated at this time.  Masking and other precautions will help protect younger residents.

While our current local vaccination rate is high and has contributed to our lower case rate as of late, we are currently in between our peak busy season and the decline in our case rate may be partially attributed to fewer people being in town.

It will be important to continue to monitor and respond to the metrics utilized in the Blaine County risk assessment, including cases per 100,000, positivity rate, hospital capacity and other epidemiological factors.

St. Luke’s applauds people who have made choices throughout the pandemic that protect themselves and others. Getting vaccinated or wearing a mask is not just about protecting ourselves; it is about protecting others. When questions arise about the vaccine, we encourage people to get answers from trusted, credentialed sources to make an informed choice.

The choices individuals make can and do make a difference—whether it is to wear a mask, physically distance, practice good hand hygiene, stay home when sick, or getting vaccinated

People who choose not to be vaccinated are strongly encouraged to continue to wear a mask and to practice other protection measures. The CDC mentions numerous exceptions to non-masked activities, such as travel on public transportation and visiting healthcare facilities, and has specific recommendations for those experiencing symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID.

Thank you for your time and for your consideration.

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