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Unwinding COVID restrictions

23 Apr 2023

What is and isn’t changing

By: Carolyn Wiens, infection prevention manager

The recent changes to masking in health care settings has led to a review of Salem Health’s COVID-related policies and practices. Over the past three years, many restrictions have been layered over our previous standards; it will take us some time to unravel them.

We ask for your patience along with your help in identifying the many, many COVID-related changes we have made – changes that have become part of our daily practice. We could use an extra set of eyes as we continue to detangle them. If you notice a COVID change not addressed below, please send an email to We will keep you informed as more changes occur.

We will follow our internal standard work as well as recommendations from regulatory agencies such as the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding high transmission of respiratory illness and may enact restrictions if necessary.

Masking: Effective April 3, masking is no longer required in health care settings. Patients, staff and providers may continue to mask if they wish. Masks will be available at public entrances and patients may wear their personal mask (cloth or otherwise).

Public door access: For everyone’s safety, we will continue to restrict access to buildings. No additional doors will be unlocked at this time. While this is a small inconvenience, controlling the movements of people in our buildings allows us to provide a more secure environment.

Plexiglass barriers: These will be removed as time allows, with a goal to remove all plexiglass by the end of June.

Drinking fountains: Drinking fountains will reopen. Each will need to be flushed and cleaned first, which will occur as time allows.

High-touch cleaning: We currently address high-touch surface cleaning as required and will sunset the additional sanitation efforts used during the pandemic.

Allowing patients to eat in rooms with visitors present: We will return to pre-pandemic standards.

Screening questions: These are still required.

Masking language on phone system queue: We are determining which, if any, phone systems still use language asking patients and visitors to mask on campus.

Visitor restrictions: Limitations on visitors and support persons were lifted several months ago.

Vaccine requirements for staff, providers and contract labor: The State of Oregon and CMS have not changed vaccination requirements for health care providers and health care staff. Prospective employees who are not vaccinated must apply for, and be granted, a medical or religious exception before they can begin work.

Patient rights: If patients request our staff or providers to be vaccinated or masked, we ask that decisions to honor these requests be made based on clinical information and facts. Respect for people should be considered at all times.