RADNOR, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Main Line Health, with hospitals and other medical facilities across several southeastern Pennsylvania counties, has announced a temporary return to masking because of what it says is a significant increase in COVID-19, flu, and RSV cases.
The Main Line Helath mask policy takes effect at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4, and will last for at least two weeks.
This applies to patients, employees, medical staff, and visitors in clinical and common areas at all of its locations.
"If you do not have a mask with you, one will be provided to you when you arrive at a Main Line Health facility," the health system wrote on its website.
The chief of infectious diseases for the hospital system says this measure is to safeguard everyone who enters the hospitals.
"Protect not only themselves but also the patients and all the people that are in our facilities that provide acute care," said Dr. Brett Gilbert, Main Line Health's chief of infectious disease.
Gilbert also added that the hospital has been tracking flu, COVID-19, and RSV cases in its communities. He said all three are on the rise and are threats to the healthcare system.
"Especially if there's transmission amongst healthcare workers and then we don't have enough people to actually help our patients," he said.
There are three parameters the hospital measures: patients who come in with respiratory illnesses, CDC data, and local wastewater.
Those numbers have surged in the past few weeks.
"Post-holiday, about two to four weeks later, you will see a spike in respiratory illness and it has to do with large volumes of people being together," said Gilbert. "My suspicion is that in the next two to four weeks, we'll see the numbers rise further than we've seen up until now."
According to the CDC, at the end of December, flu activity was minimal in Delaware, high in Pennsylvania, and very high in New Jersey.
Keep in mind that with the flu, doctors say people are usually infectious about a day or so before symptoms begin.
COVID could be even longer - even several days -- where doctors say you can be infectious and have the potential to transmit to large volumes of people, resulting in super spreader events.
People around the hospital system say they don't mind the new mandate.
"I had the flu a week ago, so obviously numbers are spiking again and I heard COVID numbers are spiking so I'm fine with the workers wanting to protect themselves," said Tracy Patterson from Brookhaven.
"There's sick people there, people with other immune-compromising diseases, so we want to protect them and make sure they don't get COVID or RSV. I think it's a good thing," said Kevin Burns from Middletown Township.
Some residents say they wish they would've masked up sooner.
"I haven't, but that's why I'm sick now," said James White from Brookhaven.
Prevention tips include masking when necessary, washing hands and getting vaccinated against diseases that we have the ability to get vaccinated for.
Main Line Health says the mandate is for the next two weeks, but that could be extended if cases stay high.
The temporary masking requirement will be in place at all Main Line Health hospitals and medical facilities, including:
For a list of Main Line Health locations, visit this page at MainLineHealth.org