MaineHealth will no longer require masking at its hospitals or medical clinics starting Monday, as COVID-19 hospitalizations decline and the federal government prepares to officially end the nation’s public health emergency.

The state’s largest health care network announced the change Wednesday, less than a week after the second largest network, Northern Light Health, rescinded its mask requirement. Health care settings have been one of the last areas where masks were required, and the moves by Maine hospitals underscore the phasing out of emergency measures three years after the start of the pandemic.

The new mask-optional policies at MaineHealth and Northern Light apply to health care workers, patients and visitors.

MaineHealth is the parent organization of Maine Medical Center in Portland, seven other Maine hospitals and a large network of outpatient clinics, urgent care centers and other health care services.

“Anyone may choose to mask at their discretion” and masks will be available for anyone who wants to wear one, MaineHealth said in a statement.

Patients may still ask health care workers to mask for face-to-face encounters, and masks will still be required in “areas and circumstances where appropriate” such as “interactions with COVID-positive patients.”


“Masking has been invaluable in preventing transmission of various illnesses, and we encourage everyone who is experiencing respiratory symptoms to stay home or, at the very least, mask. We will have masks available for all who wish to use them,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, MaineHealth’s Chief Health Improvement Officer. “We believe that this change will be very beneficial to communications between our care team members and our patients, and will overall help with our provision of care at all levels.”

Northern Light also will provide masks upon request, and is continuing to require them if a patient has COVID symptoms and in certain high-risk areas, such as cancer care and infusion centers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic – which began in March, 2020 – has eased, so have restrictions on gatherings, testing requirements and masking mandates. Health care settings have been one of the last areas where masking was required, and they may still be required at independent medical facilities and dental offices.

There were 70 hospital patients statewide with COVID-19 on Tuesday, the most recent data that was available. The last time hospitalizations were lower was the summer of 2021.

The Biden administration announced this year that it would end the public health emergency as of May 11. Not only has COVID-19 eased, but there are now more tools to combat the virus, including vaccinations and effective medications and treatments. Some people, however, such as the immune compromised, are still at risk and are urged to be cautious and consider wearing masks in crowded settings.

Vaccinations and boosters are widely available, and a second omicron-targeting booster shot was approved in March and is recommended for seniors and those who are immune compromised.


There could still be some scattered health care facilities – such as some dentist’s offices or independent health facilities – that may require masking, but by and large masking requirements are ending three years after the pandemic began in March 2020.

For the first year of the pandemic, masking requirements were commonplace, as well as other restrictions, such as limits on the size of gatherings. Many businesses and public activities were shut down.

Maine ended its universal indoor masking requirement in May 2021, and schools began lifting mask requirements in early 2022, with the 2022-23 school year the first year where masks were not mandated at the start of the school year.

A total of 3,026 Maine residents have died during the pandemic, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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