As many already know, the federal government lifted the COVD Public Health Emergency on 5/11/23. That does NOT mean that COVID-19 is gone. It is very much still with us and shows, sadly, no signs of going anywhere soon. The rate of COVID related fatalities is decreasing, substantially, but remains at surprisingly high levels. COVID-19 accounted for 473,000 US deaths in 2021, which decreased to 270,000 in 2022 (compared to 19,000 flu related deaths in the US) and is still accounting for over 1,100 deaths per week. Nonetheless, conditions are much better. We are transitioning into a more stable environment and many restrictions are being lifted.

With the lifting of the PHE, many local medical organizations are changing their masking policies and we are going to be doing the same here at PMOW. Starting on Monday 5/22:

•Masks will NO LONGER BE REQUIRED of patients and families during well visits and other visits where there are no symptoms of illness or infection.

•Masks will CONTINUE TO BE REQUIRED for patients and all family members over 3 years during any visit where there is suspicion or likelihood of infection (cold symptoms, fever, vomiting, and allergies are all examples). This includes visits which were scheduled for one reason, say a well child visit, but the child or a family member present happens to have cold symptoms at the moment. When in doubt, please wear a mask.

•For now, staff will continue to mask for all patient contact and, of course, masks are available for anyone who feels more comfortable wearing one.

We expect these policies will continue to evolve over time as conditions change and as our local professional bodies make recommendations regarding risk. We will be evaluating best practices regarding masking and other precautions on an ongoing basis. In the future, we expect restrictions to loosen further. We will, for example, probably be reconsidering our current practice of directly rooming patients from their cars into the the exam rooms, though it remains in place for now. It also may be appropriate to tighten restrictions again in the future, particularly if we see surging rates of COVID-19 or flu or other highly contagious diseases. As with most of our local colleagues, we believe that universal masking policies were key to keeping medical offices from becoming centers for spreading illness in the community. Please keep in mind, too, that we are a relatively small office and the loss of a provider for an extended absence can have a profound impact on our ability to see patients.

As always, we appreciate the confidence you place in us with the care of your children and also your patience in these challenging times. We will continue to stay abreast of the latest developments and keep you posted about any further changes. For now, we will be excited to see more faces again!