Masking policies to lift on London Transit but will remain in all London area hospitals

A sign advising people to wear face masks in Kingston, Ontario on Monday, December 28, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg.

As of this weekend, London transit riders will no longer be required to wear face coverings, however, masking rules in area hospitals will be staying in place.

Despite COVID safety measures being lifted in most settings, the province’s chief medical officer of health says masks are still required in long-term care and retirement homes. Most of Ontario’s remaining COVID-19 mask mandates will be lifted on Saturday, June 11.

In a statement, London Transit Commission general manager Kelly Paleczny said masking requirements would be lifted on Saturday.

“We will be encouraging people to respect each other’s decisions with respect to continuing to wear masks if they so choose,” Paleczny said in an email.

London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital have said they will be keeping masking policies in place for the foreseeable future.

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Read more: Most remaining Ontario COVID mask mandates lifting on Saturday

In a statement, St. Joseph’s said its decision is in keeping with other hospitals across the southwest region that are still requiring masks.

“Masks slow the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses and are one way we can continue to protect our vulnerable patients and residents from potential exposure to COVID-19,” says Roy Butler, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s.

“As always, the top priority at St. Joseph’s is the safety of those we serve.”

Officials say that active screening of all patients and visitors entering St. Joseph’s facilities is also being maintained.

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The decision by St. Joseph’s impacts all facilities, including, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care Building, Parkwood Institute Main Building, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, and Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.

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“The masking requirement is a visible demonstration of our commitment to keep our elderly and immune-compromised patients safe, ensures that health care workers are available for a sustainable delivery of service, and reflects our commitment to reduce the opportunity for outbreaks,” said STEGH officials in a statement.

LHSC’s decision to keep masking in places includes Victoria hospital, University Hospital, and Children’s Hospital.

LHSC confirmed that masking would be staying in place in a tweet on Tuesday.

“Masking for all staff, patients and visitors will continue to be part of our practice indefinitely for the foreseeable future, including past June 11,” the tweet read.

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Earlier this week, LHSC announced plans to loosen its visitor policy for patient care, citing a reduction in local COVID-19 transmission as a factor.

Read more: LHSC loosens hospital visitor policy citing lower local COVID-19 transmission

Officials say care partners no longer need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or have to register upon entering the hospital.

Two care partners at a time are now permitted for inpatients at University and Victoria hospitals, while one care partner is now allowed for outpatients; however, officials note that waiting space is limited.

While proof of vaccination is no longer required for care partners, officials say screening for COVID-19 symptoms continues at entrances, and visitors are still required to mask up and perform proper hand hygiene.

– with files from Global News’ Matthew Trevithick and Ryan Rocca

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