B.C. is making some changes to COVID-related restrictions in health care settings.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that visitors to long-term care, assisted-living and other health-care facilities will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination and results of a rapid antigen test.
In addition, Henry said the province is also removing the restriction of universal mask-wearing as a provincial order in health-care settings and facilities.
“Based on risk assessments and workplace safety plans, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks in designated areas or certain situations only,” according to Henry’s presentation.
“While some situations will require masks, they will no longer be universally mandatory.”
The vaccine requirement for health-care workers will remain in place, Henry confirmed.
“Everybody in our health-care setting is vaccinated now and that protects everyone,” she said at the press conference.
This does not mean mask mandates won’t come back into effect, Henry cautioned, as respiratory illness season ramps up again in the fall.
“These changes signify a step forward in returning to pre-pandemic operations in long-term care, assisted living, and health-care facilities while continuing to maintain a safe environment for all,” Henry said.
“However, there will still be some situations where masks will be required in health-care settings or situations where they have always been required to protect high-risk patients against respiratory transmitted infections and protect workers against high-risk exposure to infectious diseases.”
Henry also said the spring booster program begins this week for people at the highest risk of severe illness or hospitalization, including those over 80 or immune compromised.
Appointments are available across the province at pharmacies and public health clinics and can be made by going to the Get Vaccinated website or phoning 1 883 838-2323.
The province has also begun using a more sensitive test for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.
Henry said Thursday that for a given sample of wastewater, more viral particles are detected with the new test, therefore, comparing results from old and new tests can be misleading as more of the virus is detected in the new tests.
Using the new test, SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater in March were stable or decreasing at all sites, Henry confirmed.
On Tuesday, the government announced it is set to become the first province in Canada to enact prescribed patient-to-nurse ratios in the health-care system.
The provincial government has announced $750 million over the next three years to address a chronic, provincewide nursing shortage, which has resulted in “different standards, in different places in B.C.,” Dix.
The new ratios will be one-to-one for critical care patients, one nurse for every two mental health patients, one-to-three for specialized care patients and four-to-one for palliative care patients.
“The key part in what is happening is ensuring a standardization of care,” Dix said at the Tuesday announcement.
“These are changes that make British Columbia the number one place for nurses to be nurses.”
-with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey