Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that mandatory masking will return to health care settings in B.C. starting October 3.
The decision was taken in response to the rise in COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections in the community which elevates the risk of severe infection in vulnerable patients and care home residents.
Health care workers, visitors, volunteers and contractors are subject to the policy. It includes hospitals, long-term care and assisted living, out-patient clinics, home and community care and other settings.
The only exception to the renewed mask-wearing policy for health care workers will be in certain locations like “administrative areas or staff's private offices, which are not generally accessed by patients, residents or clients.”
The union is seeking clarity on what settings are included in this exception.
In long-term care and assisted living settings, visitors must wear masks in all common areas but the requirement does not extend to visitors in resident rooms.
Health care facilities are to provide the medical-grade masks required under this policy. HEU has been informed by the Ministry of Health that there is an abundance of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
HEU also encouraged the Ministry to remind employers to be prepared to provide additional access to PPE for health care workers in circumstances where, based on a point of care risk assessment (PCRA), a health care worker determines there is elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission through patient/resident interaction.
Greeters/ambassadors will be in place at facility entrances to support screening for symptoms of respiratory illnesses, hand out medical masks, and ensure people clean their hands before entering.
The Province will also start making the newly approved vaccines available to vulnerable populations and to health care workers starting in early October. The new vaccines target the XBB.1.5 subvariant of virus that causes COVID-19.