Both Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and St. Joe’s will begin phasing out universal masking requirements at all sites on Wednesday, April 19, starting with areas where there is no direct patient contact. The only time masking will be mandatory for health care workers (HCWs) is when direct patient encounters take place in inpatient rooms or ambulatory care areas. In all other circumstances, and for everyone (HCW, public, patients, visitors and volunteers) masking will be encouraged but no longer mandatory.
The rationale for this change includes the conclusion of the annual respiratory virus season, as well as the declining number of outbreaks and hospital admissions due to COVID-related and other respiratory viruses.
When and where to mask
Universal masking remains in place for all healthcare workers when in direct contact with patients on clinical in-patient or outpatient units.
Staff should continue with extended use of their mask between multiple patient contacts.
Hand hygiene before donning and after doffing a mask is required.
Visitors are encouraged to wear masks in settings where they are in contact with patients (inpatient, outpatient and emergency settings), but should NOT visit if they are symptomatic.
Patients with fever or respiratory symptoms are required to mask in all clinical and non-clinical settings (except their inpatient room/bed space), as they would have pre-pandemic.
Patients will not be expected to mask in inpatient settings (e.g., in patient rooms), but they will be encouraged to mask in the emergency department (or equivalent settings, such as the Urgent Care Clinic and Labour and Delivery Triage) and outpatient settings (particularly in waiting rooms) and can remove their mask once in a clinic room.
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