This story was updated on May 15, 2020 at 1:18 p.m. EST.
BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — With everyone required to wear face masks in Massachusetts because of the coronavirus pandemic, Brigham Health is distributing transparent face masks to help better communicate with deaf, hard of hearing, and elderly patients.
Many of these patients rely on lip reading, but non-transparent masks make that hard to do. Now, 500 of the transparent face masks are being distributed across the hospital to allow for lip reading while masks are worn.
As part of their coronavirus response, the Brigham created a Disability Task Force to "bring additional attention and focus to the unique health equity issues of patients and families with disabilities," according to the hospital.
The hospital system began procuring and distributing the masks shortly after the task force was formed.
WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker spoke with Dr. Cheri Blauwet, Director of Disability Access and Awareness at Partners Continuing Care, about the transparent face mask initiative.
"We recognized that of course there would be increased use of PPE, including universal use of face masks across all of our hospitals, which we immediately recognized would create a significant communication barrier for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or really in any circumstance where a smile or a facial expression is important to really relay the essence of what you're trying to communicate," Dr. Blauwet said.
Dr. Blauwet said this could include better communication with children on pediatric floors or elderly patients who are hard of hearing.
While the hospital system currently has 500 masks, they have placed additional orders for more masks.
Listen to the full conversation between WBZ's Ben Parker and Brigham Health's Dr. Cheri Blauwet: