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As community guidelines relax, healthcare workers must maintain vigilance against SARS-CoV-2

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The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) professional society is warning that it is imperative to continue vigilant infection prevention practices against the SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare facilities even as community prevention measures for vaccinated people begin to relax.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on May 13 that people fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, do not need to wear masks or practice physical distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. 

SHEA expressed excitement that epidemiological data has confirmed vaccine effectiveness in community settings in recent months, and the group agrees with the recommendations relaxing requirements for post-exposure, and post-travel, quarantine and testing for fully vaccinated individuals. 

However, SHEA strongly cautions against relaxing transmission mitigation efforts including masking in communities with ongoing high rates of transmission and within healthcare settings. SHEA endorses and re-emphasizes the CDC’s continued recommendation for universal masking in all healthcare settings. 

CDC recommends that healthcare personnel continue to follow all current infection prevention and control recommendations for SARS-CoV-2, to protect themselves and others from infection.

For healthcare personnel, it is often not known whether patients have been vaccinated when they first arrive in need of care, and workers provide care for many highly immunocompromised patients who may remain vulnerable to Covid-19 even after vaccination. The potential for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 is not limited to direct patient care interactions since transmission can also occur through unprotected exposures to asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic co-workers or visitors in common areas, whose vaccination status may also not be known. 

SHEA maintains that for the safety of all healthcare personnel and patients, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) use is critical. All healthcare personnel should continue to adhere to policies and procedures specific for healthcare settings. 

SHEA’s vision statement is “Safe Healthcare for All.” To accomplish this, SHEA supports continued adherence to SARS-CoV-2 transmission mitigation recommendations to prevent the spread of infections and to ensure that the U.S. sustains the growing progress in our fight to end the pandemic.  

To access SHEA’s Covid-19 and other educational resources, visit the Society’s website.