ITHACA, N.Y. (WIVT/WBGH) – As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, Cayuga Health Systems has decided to reinstate required masking.

Starting September 7, masking will be required for all staff, visitors, and patients in CHS healthcare facilities, excluding brief periods of eating and drinking. Additionally, all patients admitted to the hospital will continue to receive Universal COVID testing as well as testing required for clinical purposes. Surgical masks will be available at the entrances of CHS facilities. Screening procedures and plexiglass barriers will not be implemented at this time.

The decision to bring back mandatory masking is due to the emergence of the new COVID subvariant, EG.5. The strain, which has recently been circulating around New York State, has led to an increase in COVID cases within the community, a notable rise of medical staff members falling ill, and an increased SARS-CoV-2 signal in wastewater testing.

Although the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has remained stable thus far, CHS is strongly encouraging members of the community to take proactive safety measures.