The B.C. government is bringing back masks in all health-care settings.
Global News has obtained a memo sent from the Ministry of Health to health-care providers on the plan that is expected to be announced Thursday at a press conference.
When asked about the announcement on Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said, “It’s not a secret. We’ve been talking about this for about a month that for the respiratory illness season in the fall, we would expect health-care settings to have masking, so we’ll have details of that tomorrow.”
Health officials across the country are urging Canadians to get a COVID and flu shot at the same time as provinces have seen a rise in cases.
Although the influenza vaccine and the updated COVID-19 shot are not currently available, experts anticipate their rollout in mid-October.
“In preparation for the viral respiratory illness this fall and winter, B.C. will be reinstating enhanced infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in health-care settings, services, and programs, including community physician offices and outpatient clinics,” the memo to health-care staff reads.
These measures will go into effect on Oct. 3 and will include masking by health-care workers, visitors, contractors, and volunteers in all patient, client, and resident care areas. Patients, clients, and residents will mask when directed by a health-care worker or based on personal choice.
For long-term care settings and assisted living settings, medical masks will not be required when visiting with a resident in their room or an assisted living unit.
In addition, ambassadors will once again be stationed at entrances of health-care settings to screen for symptoms of any viral respiratory illness, to provide masks and to direct people to wash their hands.
Hand sanitizer will be based at all entrances, there will be more hand washing encouraged and more cleaning and disinfection procedures will be in place.
Health-care workers will continue to be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The memo states that there will be no ” occupancy limits in waiting rooms, meeting rooms, and communal areas, no physical distancing requirements, no requirements for rapid antigen (RAT) testing by health-care workers and visitors, and no limits on the number of visitors, unless directed by a Medical Health Officer or a health-care provider.
In an open letter Wednesday, Protect Our Province BC, a group of physicians, nurses, health scientists, health policy specialists and community advocates, said they want universal masking to be reinstated in all emergency departments.
“As of September 8 2023, 9,700 acute base beds were occupied. This is 700 beds above the seasonal average of 9,000. We all understand that surge beds without health-care workers to look after patients are nothing more than furniture,” the letter states.
“Case numbers went from 366 in the week of August 20-26, 2023 (epi-week 34) to 628, for September 10-16, 2023 (epi-week 37). This is an exponential rise. With very restricted testing in B.C., the true number of COVID infections is many times higher. Once again BC seniors, 60 years and older, are being (re)infected.”