Mask mandates will return to health-care settings across British Columbia starting next week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.
Dr. Henry said on Sept. 28 that masks must be worn by all health care workers, volunteers, contractors, and visitors in patient care areas beginning Oct. 3.
Dr. Henry said the guidelines are being introduced amid a rise in respiratory virus infections, including COVID-19, within the province.
“We don't have directives that affect [them]. … We do provide guidance and recommendations to them,” she said.
The announcement came a day after media outlets obtained a memo from the province’s Ministry of Health to health-care providers outlining its plan.
'Ambassadors'She said patients seeking the treatment they need in health care settings “might not be able to wear a mask,” and that residents in long-term care homes are not expected to wear a mask all the time since “that’s their home.”
“So the mandate applies to all the health-care workers, people working in the facilities, because they’re the people who are there most often and interacting with multiple people over time, as well as visitors," Dr. Henry said.
A news release issued by the health ministry on Sept. 28 stressed that visitors to long-term care homes will be required to wear a medical mask “when they are in common areas of the home and when participating in indoor events, gatherings, activities in communal areas of the care home, or residence.”
Dr. Henry said there will be “ambassadors” stationed at the doors of health-care facilities and long-term care homes to undertake “active screening” and “make sure people have access to masks.”
'Invitations'The announcement also came with the province’s plan to roll out its flu and COVID-19 vaccine campaign, scheduled for launch on Oct. 10.
Ms. Henry said most residents should expect to receive “invitations to get your vaccination” right after the Thanksgiving weekend.
The campaign will begin as soon as the vaccines arrive in B.C., she said, and the roll-out will begin with long-term care homes.
The health officer said over 1,300 pharmacies around the province will be offering both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, with additional capacity to be provided by public health units.
Ms. Henry confirmed there will be continued immunization requirements for health care workers.
Proof of vaccination is not required for entry to health care settings, according to the B.C. government in a notice on Sept. 28.