COVID-19 outbreak reported at Kaiser Santa Rosa hospital; local health officials say community infections remain low

Visitors will be required to wear a mask while inside the hospital building, which includes the emergency department. Mask use is also recommended for visitors to two affiliated medical office buildings.|

More than a dozen hospital workers at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center, along with “some patients,” have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting new masking rules at the facility, hospital officials said.

“In response, effective immediately, physicians and staff are required to mask in the Santa Rosa hospital and emergency department while providing direct patient care,” Kaiser officials said in a written statement late Wednesday.

Visitors will be required to wear a mask while inside the hospital building, which includes the emergency department, officials said.

Kaiser, the largest health care provider in Sonoma County, says it adheres to all applicable federal, state and local regulations about masking and other public health mitigation measures. The California Department of Public Health lifted statewide masking requirements, including for health care facilities, on April 3, as the outlook for COVID-19 infections continued to improve.

The more lenient masking recommendations are tied to lower COVID-19 “community levels,” as determined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state now recommends that health care providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, “consider” the use of mask when the COVID-19 community level is “low.”

Despite COVID-19 infections at Kaiser, the COVID-19 community level in Sonoma County continues to be rated as low.

On Wesdnesday, Dr. Kismet Baldwin, the county’s interim health officer, said public health staff are no longer relying on case rates to gauge the level of COVID-19 in the local community, as many people are no longer testing for the virus.

Instead, health officials are closely monitoring wastewater tests and tracking variants, hospitalizations and deaths to determine the level and severity of the virus.

“Wastewater surveillance is trending down in Sonoma County while hospitalizations remain relatively low,” Baldwin said in a statement. “That said, people are still contracting COVID and experiencing negative outcomes.”

Baldwin pointed out that this week public health staff reported three local COVID-19 deaths, two of which occurred earlier this month and one last month. The reporting of COVID-19 deaths often lags by two or more weeks.

The deaths, all fully-vaccinated individuals with underlying health conditions, included a man 60 to 70 who died March 25; a man 90 to 100 and a man 80 to 90 who died April 4. The three deaths bring the total COVID-19 death toll to 556.

“Staying home when ill, masking in indoor shared spaces (especially people at higher risk for poor outcomes), and staying up-to-date on vaccinations remain highly recommended and effective ways to reduce spread and the risk of serious illness,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Kaiser Permanente’s medical complex in Santa Rosa on Bicentennial Way also includes two large medical office buildings. Mask use has been recommended for visitors and health care workers at those facilities.

Kaiser officials said they adhere to current government guidance for COVID-19 and have also implemented required infection control guidelines for outbreak situations.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @pressreno.

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