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Eased mask restrictions at Lehigh Valley Health Network hospitals

Masks will be a personal choice in spaces including cafeterias, gift shops, chapels, pharmacies, and patient education and support group meetings on hospital grounds

EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. — For the past three years, any time you visited Lehigh Valley Hospital - Pocono in East Stroudsburg, you had to wear a mask.

Now, hospital officials have decided to loosen mask restrictions in non-patient areas, giving you the choice to ditch it.

"We're talking waiting rooms, the lobby of the hospital, walking through the hallways, the administrative offices, things like that. Still, whenever you go on to a patient unit or in a patient room especially, you are still required to wear a mask," said Dr. Jonathan Goldner, the chief medical officer for Lehigh Valley Hospital - Pocono and Dickson City.

Masks are also still required in emergency rooms and medical practice waiting rooms.

Dr. Goldner says the move comes during a time when coronavirus numbers are substantially down.

"I believe there are about 80-some odd cases in the entire network with COVID that in hospitals. There are eight in the intensive care unit and four on ventilators. Like I said, it's much, much, much better. I remember the days when, you know, we had a total of 24 ICU beds. We had 24 patients on ventilators with COVID."

Three years ago during this time, Lehigh Valley Hospital - Pocono recorded its first coronavirus patient in its system.

"Those were scary days, you know, with a virus that we knew was deadly. We didn't know really the best way to protect ourselves. There was a lot of staff that were very concerned when they went in to take care of patients."

Dr. Goldner says a lot has changed since then, including having a vaccine and treatments that can fight against the coronavirus.

"There's a lot of people that have gotten vaccinated, so they have some immunity. Some people have gotten immunity because they've had COVID. So that actually helps protect people, and the other thing is, we now have Paxlovid. We now have some treatments."

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Pocono say getting vaccinated and boosted is your best form of protection. 

Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP’s YouTube page.

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