Our Nation has made significant progress in battling COVID-19, but there are still many regions of the country experiencing increased cases primarily due to the Delta variant
Our Nation has made significant progress in battling COVID-19, but there are still many regions of the country experiencing increased cases primarily due to the Delta variant. Since Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities supporting Veterans are spread widely across the country where local conditions vary greatly in terms of vaccination rates as well as infection rates, VA continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in our safety planning.
Last week, CDC issued new guidance requiring all individuals to wear a mask indoors in areas where the transmission rate is High or Substantial, regardless if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. The intent is to maximize protection from the Delta variant and reduce the possibility of spreading the virus to others. It is recommended that leaders at all facilities and properties closely monitor COVID-19 cases in your local area by checking the CDC county tracker and determine if it is necessary to mandate wearing of face masks for all staff in order to provide a safe and healthy working environment for staff and visitors.
VA ensures masks are available for employees, contractors and visitors at VA facilities and properties and follows CDC guidance on the design, use and maintenance of such masks. Masks must cover the nose and mouth, fit snuggly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face and adhere to CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance.
Masks must be worn in any common areas or shared workspaces (including open floorplan office space, cubicle embankments, conference rooms and while in VA vehicles). Masks should also be worn in outdoor shared spaces when physical distancing cannot be maintained for unvaccinated individuals. VA Administrations and Staff Offices may provide for exceptions consistent with CDC guidelines, for example, when an individual is alone in an office with floor to ceiling walls and a closed door or for a limited time when eating or drinking and maintaining distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Signage requiring masks will be posted conspicuously at each public entrance on VA properties and communicated regularly to the workforce and visitors. In general, contract guards or Federal Protective Service Security Officers may prohibit entry of persons who are not in compliance with mask requirements at entry control points.
Face masks are not the only safety measure to ensure the safety of VA staff, contractors and visitors. The VA Secretary has mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all Title 38 personnel. Also, it is critically important to continue practices related to physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, improved air filtration and enhanced personal hygiene. The CDC states the most effective protection from contracting the virus is getting fully vaccinated.
As always, thank you for your service and remember VAPIHCS is here for you. Call 1-800-214-1306 for the care you have earned.
One Team, One Ohana!
Adam M. Robinson, Jr., MD, MBA, CPE
Director, VA Pacific Islands Health Care System
VADM, MC, USN, (RET)
36th Surgeon General, USN
Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. on AM830, KHVH with Rick Hamada