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Emory Healthcare announces changes to COVID-19 vaccine and masking policies
Getty image of policy papers

Emory Healthcare will no longer require COVID-19 vaccinations for employment or medical staff privileges and will no longer require providers and staff to wear face masks for direct patient contact in outpatient settings, except in high vulnerability areas.

The policy changes, which are effective immediately, were announced in a July 27 email to employees from Emory Healthcare CEO Joon S. Lee, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer Bill Bornstein and Chief Nurse Executive Sharon Pappas. Any Emory University policies related to Emory Healthcare’s COVID-19 immunization requirements will also be lifted as a result of these changes. 

“The past few years, all of you have adopted numerous changes in response to the COVID pandemic,” the three Emory Healthcare leaders wrote to employees. “Those changes ranged from our visitation policy and masking to vaccination requirements. Thank you for your flexibility and commitment to creating a safe environment for our staff and each other.”

Change to COVID-19 vaccination mandate 

Effective immediately, COVID-19 vaccination will no longer be required for Emory Healthcare employment or medical staff privileges. The vaccine helps decrease severity of the infection in the recipient and was an important aspect of infection prevention measures earlier in the pandemic based upon the information available and environmental context at the time. However, current evidence does not indicate that it prevents health care workers from spreading the virus to others. Therefore, leaders no longer feel it is necessary to require vaccination to work within these Emory facilities.

Despite this policy change, Emory Healthcare strongly encourages all staff and physicians to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, per CDC guidelines.

“Robust data shows that the vaccine is safe and helps protect those who receive it from getting severe cases of COVID and COVID complications,” leaders noted. “The vaccines are important for all of us and are particularly important for those with certain health concerns.”

Emory Healthcare will continue to require annual influenza vaccination, as there is solid evidence showing the vaccine reduces the transmission of influenza to patients from health care workers who may not be symptomatic.

Change to ambulatory masking requirement

Emory Healthcare is lifting the masking requirement for team members providing direct patient care in ambulatory settings except for those working in high-risk areas.

“This change is in response to the continuing low prevalence of COVID in our community,” Lee, Bornstein and Pappas explained. “Of course, those who wish to continue masking should do so, and we must all be respectful of those choices. If you are experiencing any COVID-like symptoms and have received a negative test, please wear a medical grade mask to protect those around you.”

Masking requirements remain in place as follows:

  • All staff/providers, patients, care partners and visitors if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness;
  • All staff/providers, patients, care partners and visitors in areas that care for patients who are immunocompromised or are otherwise at increased risk of COVID-19 and/or severe disease, as determined by leaders of those areas;
  • During direct patient contact by all staff and providers in inpatient areas.

“We will continue evaluating our environment, risk and latest evidence to ensure the processes we have in place appropriately protect the health of our patients and each other,” Lee, Bornstein and Pappas said.

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