Effective Wednesday, April 19, Niagara Health is updating masking requirements in most settings across our sites following guidance from Public Health Ontario.
“The decision to update our masking requirements was made in consideration of no longer being in the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Karim Ali, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control and Director, Division of Infectious Diseases.
“In addition, based on serological data, approximately 95 per cent of Ontario’s population have either had a COVID-19 exposure or infection, which supports herd immunity, in addition to high rates of vaccination against COVID-19, as well as a steady decline in COVID-19-related and other respiratory viruses within the hospital and community.”
Patients and visitors are encouraged to wear a mask where possible and especially in settings when in contact with patients or in direct contact with healthcare workers, outpatient settings and in waiting rooms. This includes Emergency Departments, Urgent Care Centres, Ambulatory Clinics, Dialysis Units, the Walker Family Cancer Centre and outpatient mental health and group therapy settings. Patients with fever or respiratory symptoms are required to mask in all clinical and non-clinical settings (except if in an inpatient room or bedspace).
Staff and physicians are still required to wear a mask when providing direct patient care in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
Masks are not required in auditoriums, break rooms, charting rooms, laboratories, meeting rooms, nursing stations, offices and in common non-clinical areas such as cafeterias, elevators and hallways.
Niagara Health will continue to provide masks to anyone entering the hospital who wishes to wear one.
In the next four to six weeks, we will work towards ending universal masking in clinical settings. This phased approach is necessary to consider the long-term implementation strategy, monitor situations with reduced masking requirements and identify areas where universal masking should continue.
Visitors with fever or respiratory illness symptoms should not be in the hospital unless they meet exceptional criteria (i.e., visitor of an end of life patient, caregiver) and should wear a mask.