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Covid-19 & Cancer Treatment

To Mask or Not to Mask – A Guide for Immunocompromised Patients

Posted: May 25, 2021


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that fully vaccinated people can resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic without wearing a mask or social distancing. This announcement has caused a lot of confusion, so we sat down with our Chief Operations Officer, Kim Brodie, to talk about her recommendations for Cancer Care Northwest patients. 
What is Cancer Care Northwest’s current mask policy?
Whether you are fully vaccinated or not, Cancer Care Northwest requires that all patients, visitors, and staff wear masks throughout the duration of their time at any Cancer Care Northwest facility. We are continuously evaluating this policy and strive to do what is safest for our patients and staff. 
Why do I have to wear a mask while at CCNW if I am fully vaccinated?
Evidence has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines have been effective in regular patient populations. However, people with weakened immune systems such as those undergoing cancer treatments, have not responded as well, and have shown less immune response than healthy populations. Additionally, we are still learning more about how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data shows that the vaccines may work against some variants but not others. With that said, it remains important that our immunocompromised patients continue to follow safety guidelines to protect them from contracting COVID-19, including wearing a mask. 
What recommendations, in addition to wearing masks, would you recommend for cancer patients?
Since we know that COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, I recommend that in additional to continuing to wear masks, our patients wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing, avoid large crowds and anyone who is sick. 
When will immunocompromised patients be able to give up the mask?
Historically, oncology patients with weakened immune status have always been encouraged to follow these same guidelines. I suspect this will continue to be the case regardless of our status with state and national vaccination percentage. The best option is the safest option for this subset of particularly vulnerable persons, which is wearing masks whenever in public settings of any kind.