ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Patients at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital are no longer required to wear a mask.      

Sentara, like most hospitals, has required masking for doctors and visitors since the start of the COVID pandemic three years ago.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Tesoriere said months of research and consulting with other Virginia medical systems led to the decision.

"Given the data and the transmission levels, I think that masking is generally unnecessary. Given the exposure in the general community, masking in a certain location may not be a use or consequence at this point in time," he said.

This policy begins Tuesday, March 21. Patients with respiratory symptoms and the staff treating them will still have to mask.