Why you’re still being required to wear a mask when you go to the doctor

MADISON, Wis. — As Dane County continues to see its levels of COVID-19 fluctuate, the community’s health providers are reminding people their COVID protocols remain in effect.

The county’s main healthcare providers — including Access Community Health Centers, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, Stoughton Health, SSM Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter, UW Heal and the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital — issued a joint message Thursday morning saying masks are still required at all times inside their healthcare facilities and there are still limitations on visitors for most appointments and locations.

Patients and visitors will also still be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they check in, the providers said.

While Public Health Madison & Dane County has not required wearing masks indoors in public spaces since March 1, local doctors say healthcare providers and should be — and are — held to a higher standard.

“I think this is a really confusing question for individuals because they look in the community and they see, ‘hey, we’re in the yellow status, we don’t have to wear masks, but when I go to the hospital or work in a hospital, I have to wear a mask,'” UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said. “Hospitals are held to a different standard when it comes to CDC guidelines around masking. In our normal lives, we follow the community level, which is that familiar graphic that a lot of us have seen that shows places as green, yellow and red, but for hospitals, we actually follow the community transmission level, which is different.”

Dane County’s COVID-19 community transmission levels have remained either “medium” or “high” as defined by the CDC for the last several weeks, and is currently in the “high” category.

“It comes down to the people that are in our walls. People who are in the hospital oftentimes have medical conditions, they’re compromised, they’re the most vulnerable people in our population. And their experience with COVID-19, if they were to get COVID-19, is much worse, much more dangerous than an average individual in the community,” Pothof said. “When it comes to our hospitals, it really is number one about the safety of our patients. We don’t want to give them COVID, have them get them really sick, and have a bad outcome.”

Pothof says the policies in place by all Dane County health providers also help keep their staff healthy — especially during a time when many hospitals and clinics are short-staffed.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of individuals leave healthcare, we are short-staffed, and the staff we do have are working really hard. We need to keep them healthy so that they can continue to provide that care to patients who need that care,” Pothof said.

Policies like visitor restrictions are in place to help ensure people are not bringing COVID-19 — either knowingly or unknowingly — into the sensitive healthcare environment. People should check with their healthcare provider to see what their current visitor policies are.

For more information