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What is UMass Memorial Health’s policy on masking?

Our masking policy as of February 23, 2024, is the following:

Masks are optional and encouraged for patients and visitors. Masks are optional and encouraged for UMass Memorial Medical Center employees in all patient encounters, in licensed clinical areas and in all other areas and patient interactions for employees.

We will continue to monitor the level of COVID-19 activity in our patient populations as well as with all employees at our hospitals, so that we can continue to adjust policies as needed. As always, our patient and employee safety and wellbeing remain our highest priorities.

What is COVID-19? What are variants and why should I be concerned?

A virus called SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. Although many people infected with COVID-19 have only mild symptoms, some experience severe illness that can be deadly. Patients who are vaccinated have less severe illness and lower chances of hospitalization and death. Some people who have COVID-19 recover but have lasting health problems.

As the virus has mutated, new variants have emerged. The Delta variant was one of the original variants. The Omicron variant replaced Delta and is much more transmissible and spreads even faster than Delta. The Omicron variant has many lineages. New lineages continue to emerge and spread in the United States and globally. New variants and subvariants may be more contagious than earlier ones, but they do not appear to make people any sicker than the original strain. While the research shows that they can evade some of the immunity provided by vaccines and prior infections, vaccines still offer protection against them.

Learn more about variants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC).

What are the symptoms COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 vary and may appear two to 14 days after you were exposed. You may have the virus if you are experiencing any of these symptoms: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These are not the only possible symptoms of COVID-19 can cause. The CDC has more information about symptoms

My COVID-19 test is positive. What do I do now?

If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate at home — even if you have no symptoms. To isolate, you should set up a room or area only for those in the household who are positive for COVID-19. Use a separate bathroom if possible. If you do have to be near others, wear a mask that fits well. 

Notify close contacts of your positive results. Encourage them to get tested and quarantine at home. That means stay at home and limit contact with others. Unvaccinated close contacts are at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus — and should also quarantine. 

I am positive for COVID-19, and my symptoms are increasing. What should I do?

  • If you have mild symptoms, isolate at home by separating yourself from others in your household. Do this even if you have no symptoms.
  • If you have moderate symptoms, isolate at home and call your primary care provider (or an urgent care center).
  • Call 911 or go to the closest emergency department if you have any of these symptoms: 
    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Should I quarantine? Or isolate? What is the difference?

After you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may need to quarantine — which means stay away from others in case you are contagious to prevent spread of the virus. Wear a mask that fits well if you do have to be around others. Typically, fully vaccinated people without symptoms do not have to isolate or quarantine.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19, you may qualify for preventative treatment. Our COVID-19 Treatment Center offers this treatment. You can also ask your medical provider for a referral.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to isolate — separate yourself from others in your household — even if you have no symptoms. Stay in a specific “sick room” or area. Use a separate bathroom if you have one. If you need to be around other people, wear a mask that fits well. 

When should I wear a mask in public?

As rates of infection increase or decrease within our state and region, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC will continue to provide updated guidance about when and where residents should wear masks and our policies for healthcare workers will be based on the data and their recommendations.

Are there any treatments for COVID-19?

If you recently tested positive for COVID-19, there may be a treatment that can prevent your symptoms from getting worse — and keep you out of the hospital. Treatments include oral Paxlovid and oral Molnupiravir, which can help your body fights off the virus that causes COVID-19. Eligibility is based on age, health condition and symptoms. Contact your doctor (by phone for by using MyChart) to ask if you may be eligible for any of the available treatments for COVID-19.

What does it mean to be "a close contact" of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

You are a close contact if you were less than six feet away from someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during certain times. For example, three individual five-minute exposures would total 15 minutes. This includes:

  • While they were symptomatic
  • Within two days before they started having symptoms
  • In the two days before their test was taken 
  • Anytime in the 10 days after the person’s test for the virus

You are a close contact even if you were wearing a mask while you were around someone with COVID-19 as described above. A close contact can also be a person who was not wearing a mask while they had direct contact with droplets from someone with COVID-19 — for example, being coughed on. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to inform people you have been in close contact with. 

I am having a health problem unrelated to COVID-19. I would normally go to the doctor, but I am worried about getting the virus.

At all UMass Memorial Health locations, we take many precautions to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19. You can rely on UMass Memorial physician offices and hospitals to safely get the care you need. 

If your concern is not urgent, it’s often helpful to call your primary care provider for guidance. Or you can use MyChart to send a message.

If it’s an emergency, call 911 or to the nearest emergency room. Here are some examples of conditions that need to be treated at a hospital emergency room: 

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Compound fracture (bone that shows through the skin)
  • Head injuries
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, severe headache, or paralysis or weakness
  • Uncontrolled bleeding

You may be able to get the care you need at an urgent care clinic for conditions such as: 

  • Back or muscle pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Cuts and minor burns
  • Diarrhea
  • Earache
  • Skin conditions
  • Sprains or joint pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting

I think my symptoms may be COVID-19. What should I do?

Get tested. You can use an at-home test or get tested through a testing center.

Getting your results may take several days. Please quarantine while you wait. That means stay at home and limit contact with other people. 

How are visiting hours and policies affected by COVID-19?

For the safety of our patients and our employees, we change our hospitals' visitation policies as COVID-19 transmission rates go up and down. Be sure to check our hospitals' visitation policies before you come.