VA Relaxes Masking Rules at Health Care Facilities

May 31, 2023 by Dan McCue
VA Relaxes Masking Rules at Health Care Facilities
Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander and his wife Kris pose for a selfie wearing masks donated by Juanita Withrow, 434th ARW drug demand reduction program manager. Withrow has produced almost 900 face masks, all of which have been donated to Grissom Airmen and the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Larry Shaw)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that it is relaxing face mask requirements at all of its medical facilities.

Beginning Tuesday, face masks were no longer required in most clinical areas of these facilities.

“Now that the [COVID] public health emergency has ended, we are updating our masking policies to reflect our new reality while still ensuring the safety of the veterans we serve,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal, in a written statement. 

“Except for the highest-risk areas and situations, masking will be greatly relaxed for Veterans and clinicians at VA health care facilities.”

The high-risk areas Elnahal was referring to include the following areas and their waiting rooms:

  • Transplant units.
  • Dialysis.
  • Chemotherapy units.
  • Emergency department and urgent care.
  • Open bay medical intensive care units.
  • Spinal cord injury and community living centers (staff and visitors only, with the exception that visitors to CLCs and SCI may unmask when visiting with a patient within that patient’s room or outside).

Masking also continues to be required for those with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection or other viral respiratory infection, and for those requested to wear a mask by a veteran patient, caregiver or family member.

In announcing the new rules, the Department of Veterans Affairs also took stock of its performance during the pandemic.

The department said Tuesday that during that period it provided more than 332 million health care appointments to veterans, cared for more than 870,000 veterans with COVID-19 and vaccinated more than 4.4 million veterans.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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