CDC change in mask guidelines for healthcare facilities doesn’t protect patients – Chicago Tribune
The recent change to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking guidelines allows health care facilities to end masking in clinical settings. These tips miss the mark and do not protect patients.
While the guidelines state that facilities continue to mask areas where immunocompromised patients may be present, they do not specify how a facility can implement such a policy. The message that masks are no longer needed in healthcare reinforces the idea that healthcare is now “safe” without masks. But doctors and patients know full well that immunocompromised and other vulnerable people mingle with other patients and staff in every waiting room and care space. Risk is far from black and white.
As doctors – two of us are immunocompromised – who have worked through the pandemic, we know that masking is not too difficult, too uncomfortable or too inconvenient to protect our patients.
CDC guidelines imply that going back to the “pre-COVID-19” path is the right path. On the contrary, we strive to always learn and update policies based on updated scientific findings. We should implement new strategies in health care as our understanding of science and evidence improves. When doctors learned that handwashing protected patients, it became the standard of care. There was a time when sterile gloves and surgical equipment in operating rooms were not the norm.
While masks can make communication and facial expression difficult, and some patients may do better with unmasked providers, most of the care we provide can easily be delivered more safely with masks. Not only for the immunocompromised but also for all patients who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing long COVID-19, a disease about which we still have much to learn. We should sort out when maskless care benefits patients instead of trying to throw away our masks out of nostalgia, need for comfort, or political expediency.
Many medical centers and doctors’ offices have already opted to maintain masking in clinical areas, including here in Chicago. The next time you visit one, they will ask you to wear a mask to minimize the transmission of COVID-19.
To those receiving or providing health care where masking is suddenly lacking, we encourage you to push for universal masking to protect yourself, your health and that of your community.
— Dr. Shikha Jain, Dr. Seth Trueger and Dr. Emily Landon, Chicago
As a palliative care chaplain in the community for nearly 30 years, I am often tasked with finding community mental health professionals for others. I ran for local government to bring a voice in health care and social services to our community. In Illinois, it is extremely difficult for people living with mental health and addiction issues or developmental and intellectual disabilities to get the therapeutic help they need. Unfortunately, there is a drastic shortage of available services and excessive wait times for services, even for people who can pay privately.
Emergency department visits by people in mental health crisis or suffering from drug overdose are at unprecedented levels. Our public schools provide exceptional support for people with developmental disabilities, but they age at 22 and typically wait several years for state services.
The good news is that we can help increase mental health services in our communities. In November’s general election, there will be ballot referendums in several townships to create community mental health councils, known as 708 councils. These councils have a small taxing authority, subject to the approval of the local township council. The funds they generate are used to provide additional funding for more mental health services that remain in the local township.
For most owners, the additional tax will be the cost of a large pizza – a small amount that pays to extend much-needed services.
I believe we all benefit as a community when we take care of our most vulnerable neighbors.
I ask everyone to please vote yes.
– Reverend Nicolle Grasse, Administrator, Arlington Heights Village Council
My father, James A. Serritella, passed away in April 2021. For half a century before his death, my father served as the primary outside legal counsel to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Since the 1980s, much of his work has focused on the clergy sex abuse crisis, an issue on which he has become a national, if not international, leader.
I was heartened to see John O’Malley’s op-ed on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s decades-long approach to implementing policies that attempt to protect children (“Chicago Archdiocese’s 3 years of taking action against sex abuse”, October 16). I believe my father was the main force behind many of the most innovative policies that have attempted to bring justice and healing to victims.
Over the course of his life, my father championed the same message time and time again: the need for compassion and doing the right thing. He believed the church’s response would be measured by the compassion it showed to its victims, its fairness and the effectiveness of its outreach to the community.
Below is an excerpt from some of his writings:
“The most difficult professional challenge I have faced in my half-century legal career is the Catholic Church‘s clerical sexual abuse crisis. My background was primarily in the humanities, which made me allowed for a broader view of issues that presented themselves as legal, but had ramifications that went far beyond the law.
“With this in mind, we advocated a different approach. I thought that good priests and other pastoral ministers should solve the problem by reaching out to the injured and trying to help them. I thought it was better to spend the money on solving the problems of the injured, rather than spending it on lawyers mustering all possible defenses and failing to address the harm caused by the abuse. The church should solve the problem by having its own sensitive pastoral staff to reach out to the injured and try to help them. In other words, we represent a church and the church acts best when it acts like a church.
“Looking back at all we have done to solve the problem, we are sometimes disappointed because these efforts are not recognized in the public square. Here in Chicago, we began to tackle the problem early on and continued a creative, sustained, and effective effort for many years. Nevertheless, even the damage inflicted here will likely still take decades or more to overcome and heal. »
—James A. Serritella, Chicago
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