AHS changes recommendations for COVID-19 PPE, staff now asked to wear eye protection

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Alberta Health Services is now requiring health-care providers in the province to wear eye protection as part of their regular personal protective equipment, as further protection against COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Kerry Williamson, a spokesperson for AHS said in an email that the change in PPE guidance was made after the agency “learned from our experiences” through the pandemic.

“Out of an abundance of caution, throughout the last nine months, AHS has been quarantining large numbers of health-care workers who have been potentially exposed at work, even though the majority of these individuals do not develop COVID-19,” Williamson said.

“Through our experience, we have affirmed that use of a mask and eye protection provides appropriate protection for staff in close contact with COVID-19 patients and eliminates risk of virus spread.

“By adding in continuous eye protection to our PPE Guidance, we can ensure our staff are protected while avoiding staff quarantine after caring for patients who may have unrecognized COVID-19 infection at the time of the interaction.”

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The change comes as Alberta faces a second surge of the virus, with 1,685 new cases of the disease confirmed Wednesday, bringing the total of active cases across the province to 17,144.

Currently, there are 504 Albertans in hospital with 97 of them in intensive care.

Williamson added that the changes are “in alignment” with the latest guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which currently suggests the use of visors, face shields, and eye protection such as goggles.

The previous PPE guidance from AHS suggests continuous masking but did not include specific rules for eye protection.

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Williamson said that “supplied eye protection will continue to be readily available to all frontline staff,” including disposable face shields, mask/face shield combinations, reusable goggles, safety glasses, or reusable face shields.

He added AHS has placed “massive orders for supplies” for the pandemic.

Health-care workers in the province are required to wear PPE “continuously” if they are involved in direct patient contact or cannot maintain a two-metre distance from both patients and coworkers.

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