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10 Places Bringing Back Mask Mandates Right Now

An uptick in COVID cases has prompted a return to old mitigation measures.

For a period of time, it felt like we were out of the woods with the COVID-19 pandemic, redirecting our attention to other concerning outbreaks. Many of us celebrated the lifting of mask mandates and the elusive "return to normalcy" when the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ended in May, but unfortunately, ending the PHE didn't mean that COVID disappeared for good. Over the past several weeks, case numbers and hospitalizations have seen an increase. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations in the U.S. jumped from 15,073 to 20,552 between Aug. 19 and Sept. 9. This number decreased by 1.6 percent as of Sept. 16 (down to 19,674), but data from that point on has yet to be released.

The CDC hasn't announced any new mask mandates—and hospital admission rates are far from where they were at the height of the pandemic—but some entities are taking it upon themselves to reintroduce masking policies as a safeguard. As Robert Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, told CNN late last month, "If you're trying to be careful, it's time to whip out the mask again."

Speaking with Fox 5 NY, Stephanie Silvera, PhD, epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University, also mentioned masking "to prevent further spread," while acknowledging that it's not something many of us want to do.

Regardless of where you stand on the mask debate, you'll now be required to wear them—and follow other COVID-related protocols—in certain places. Read on to find out where people are being required to mask up again.

RELATED: Here's Exactly How to Get 4 Free COVID Tests Sent to Your Home.

Hospitals in Contra Costa, Sonoma, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties (California)

male doctor wear mask, give treatment to young woman in hospital.

Several counties in California announced plans to reinstate mask mandates for hospitals and other settings, effective Nov. 1, 2023 through April 30, 2024. Health officials in Contra Costa, Alameda, Sonoma, and San Mateo counties will soon don masks in hospitals and areas where patients are treated indoors, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Historical data demonstrates that higher rates of influenza, COVID-19, and other respiratory viruses that can cause severe respiratory infections occur annually between late fall and spring," the order posted on the County of Sonoma website reads.

The county adds that the mandate is being reinstated even though testing, treatment, vaccinations, and lower death rates have been reported and "diminished the necessity for year-round mandatory orders related to masking in multiple high-risk settings."

The order continues, "However, the risk to vulnerable patients of COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory viruses in Health Care Settings, including skilled nursing facilities, remains significant, and so it continues to be important for Face Masks to be used in Patient Care Areas of these settings when seasonal risk of exposure to one or multiple viruses is at its highest."

According to the LA Times, Santa Clara County already required masks in patient care areas between late fall and spring, per a mandate enacted in March.

Kinterbish Junior High School (Cuba, Alabama)

fabric face mask on top of school supplies
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock

As of Aug. 21, Kinterbish Junior High School in Alabama reintroduced masking.

"Due to the slow [rise] of Covid cases in the area, students, employees, and visitors are asked to wear facial masks starting Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Thank you!" a post on the school's Facebook page reads.

The school did not include an end date for the policy, but Facebook posts from this week show students, teachers, and visitors all wearing masks.

RELATED: Some Major Pharmacies Are Charging $190 for New COVID Shot—Here's Why.

Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital (Plattsburgh, New York)

Young female EMS key worker doctor in front of healthcare ICU facility, wearing protective PPE face mask equipment,holding medical lab patient health check form
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Per a Sept. 27 press release, Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital (CVPH), part of the University of Vermont Health Network, is requiring all patients and visitors to resume masking, while employees have returned to masking "when appropriate."

"In order to protect our patients, our staff and families, we are requiring all patients and visitors to wear appropriate face coverings—surgical masks—while they are with us," Keith Collins, MD, infectious disease specialist, said in the press release. "COVID can be spread before you have symptoms and you may not know you are carrying it."

The hospital cited an increased number of incoming COVID cases, emergency visits, and employees who have been out sick.

"We are making this change as we see trends develop and the virus' prevalence rise across our region," Carlyn Haag, RN, CVPH's associate chief nursing officer, added in the release. "By taking action now, we can limit the virus' impact."

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Male doctor wearing a mask and gloves during a checkup with a young, 8 year old boy because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Staff members at Cincinnati Children's Hospital are required to wear masks due to an uptick in COVID cases, as well as RSV and the flu. The policy went into effect on Sept. 25," Fox19 Now reported.

"This decision was made to promote the safety of our patients, families, visitors, and employees, based on evidence that masks are effective in reducing the spread of respiratory illness," a statement from the hospital provided to Fox19 reads.

Visitors and patients are encouraged to mask up as well, but they're not required at this point.

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Now Follow a Distinct Pattern, Doctors Report.

Select Hackensack Meridian Health facilities (New Jersey)

Hackensack Meridian Health Palisades Medical Center
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As of Sept. 28, Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) hospital network in New Jersey is requiring all patients, visitors, and staff to mask up at eight facilities. These include: Carrier Clinic; Jersey Shore University Medical Center; JFK University Medical Center; Palisades Medical Center; Ocean University Medical Center; Old Bridge Medical Center; Riverview Medical Center; and Southern Ocean Medical Center, per an update to the network's visitation guidelines.

"This decision was made due to an increase in COVID-19 prevalence in these communities," the guideline page reads. "The health and safety of our team members and patients has always been and continues to be our number one priority."

Masking is encouraged at all other HMH facilities as well.

Windsor Terrace Middle School (Brooklyn, New York)

mask hanging on school desk
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According to Chalkbeat New York, Windsor Terrance Middle School in the Brooklyn borough of New York City temporarily reinstated a mask mandate, too.

The move was made after there was a spike in cases with sixth-grade students, the outlet reported on Sept. 20. The mandate will remain in place until each grade goes five days without reporting any new cases, an email sent to parents stated, per Chalkbeat.

Auburn Community Hospital (Auburn, New York)

doctor wearing a mask speaking to patient
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Auburn Community Hospital in Auburn, New York, recently brought masks back, per an update to its visiting hours page.

"Face coverings are mandatory inside our facilities, regardless of your immunization status," the page reads. "If you do not arrive with one or yours is deemed inappropriate, a mask will be provided to you. It must be worn at all times and must cover your nose and mouth."

According to, the change was made only a month after the hospital did away with its COVID-era masking policy, which ended July 18.

RELATED: 10 COVID Testing Tips That Make Travel So Much Easier, Experts Say.

UMass Memorial Health (Worcester, Massachusetts)

white KN95 or N95 mask for protection pm 2.5 and corona virus isolated on grey background. Prevention of the spread of virus and pandemic COVID-19.

UMass Memorial Health in Worcester, Massachusetts, is bringing back masks to specific areas, according to an Aug. 24 update on its page outlining visitation rules.

"Due to an increase in COVID-19 infections, all Medical Center caregivers are now required to wear masks in all patient encounters in licensed clinical areas," the update reads.

In a memo sent to staff obtained by CBS News Boston, UMass Memorial added, "We have continued to see a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 positive employees over the past two weeks, which has led to exposures of both fellow caregivers and patients," calling the masking policy a "protective measure for our staff and patients."

The hospital may expand this policy to anyone who enters the hospital if the trend continues, per CBS News, and it will reevaluate the policy four weeks from the Aug. 24 date.

The hospital memo continued, "Please know that these changes are not made lightly and we know how that a return to masking may be upsetting for some of our caregivers."

Kaiser Permanente Hospital (Santa Rosa, California)

kaiser permanente logo
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According to The Press Democrat, due to a spike in COVID-19 infections in the local area, Kaiser Permanente hospital in Santa Rosa, California, reintroduced masks. The policy applies to staff, patients, and visitors.

"To ensure that we are helping protect the health and safety of our patients, our workforce and our community, we have reintroduced a mask mandate for physicians, staff, patients, members, and visitors in the hospital and medical offices in the Santa Rosa Service Area," a statement from the company reads, per The Press Democrat.

In a statement to Newsweek, the outlet again stressed its commitment to protecting the community and residents, "which includes taking appropriate steps to prevent the spread of transmissible infectious diseases in our facilities."

Kaiser Permanente continues, "Respiratory protection and the use of masking is an important component in keeping our health care workers, physicians and patients safe."

The hospital also asked the public to get the "anticipated COVID-19 vaccine" when it's available.

RELATED: 5 Hand-Washing Mistakes That Can Expose You to Norovirus or the Flu, Doctors Say.

Upstate Medical (Syracuse, New York)

male doctor checking hospitalized female patient listening to her heart and nurse standing next to them all wearing protective facemasks - Pandemic lifestyles

According to, Upstate Medical in Syracuse, New York introduced mandatory masking once again at both of its hospitals.

"Effective immediately, mandatory masking is required by all staff, visitors, and patients in clinical areas of Upstate University Hospital, Upstate Community Hospital, and ambulatory clinical spaces," a memo sent to staff and obtained by reads. "Clinical areas are defined as any location patients gather, wait, transport through, or receive care. Masking is strongly recommended in all non-clinical areas."

Stephen Thomas, director of global health for Upstate, told the outlet that while the numbers are always changing, they noticed "an upward trend of Covid associated hospitalizations in our community."

He continued, "We are nowhere near where we were at our busiest point but we have more patients now than we did a month ago. Fortunately, we are well within our capacity to care for all of our patients."

Some mandates have already lifted (or never started).

Travelers on a plane wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic

Contrary to reports by several news outlets, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is not among those reintroducing a mask mandate. As Rutgers spokesperson Dory Devlin told Patch, Rutgers stopped requiring masks in both classrooms and dorms as of October 2022, and that policy hasn't changed.

Masks continue to be required around "vulnerable" patients at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which is part of the university.

Movie studio Lionsgate did enact a mandatory mask mandate on certain floors of its Santa Monica, California, office building last month, according to an email sent to staff and obtained by Deadline. The policy was reportedly introduced after several employees tested positive for COVID but has since been lifted, per an update from Deadline. United Health Services (UHS) instated a policy back on Aug. 23, but per a Sept. 7 update posted on its website, masks are no longer required at UHS facilities, except at UHS Senior Living at Ideal.

Several schools have enacted and since removed mandates, including Morris Brown College, a liberal arts school in Atlanta; Dillard University in New Orleans; and Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. The elementary school sparked outrage earlier this month when masks were re-instituted for one classroom of students. However, the policy was set to expire on Sept. 11, Christopher Cram, spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools, told Fox News.

And for those concerned about traveling with a mask, don't worry just yet. Speaking with the Associated Press (AP) in August, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) debunked rumors that managers were told masks would be required for staff in September, and for travelers by mid-October.

The TSA made no such statement to managers, a spokesperson told the outlet, while a CDC spokesperson added that rumors about the return of the travel mask mandate are "utterly false."

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Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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