Province reinstates mask mandates for health-care workers in hospitals, care homes

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Manitoba Health and Shared Health will continue to use a clinically informed approach during the respiratory virus season to protect the province’s most vulnerable populations, including those who may not be able to protect themselves from respiratory viruses while receiving care or support in a communal residence or health-care facility.

Effective Wednesday, Oct. 18, health-care staff working in Manitoba hospitals, personal care homes and other health-care facilities will be required to wear a medical mask during direct interactions with patients, residents and clients. Staff providing care services operated by regional health authorities, including services in the community such as home care, will also be required to wear masks when providing care. This approach will help reduce the risk of spreading a respiratory virus from a health-care worker to a vulnerable patient, resident or client, particularly those who are more at risk of severe illness.

Masks will continue to be optional but recommended for visitors to health-care sites. They will be available at sites for people who wish to wear one. However, masks may continue to be required for visitors and other staff in locations where care is provided to highly immunocompromised people, such as cancer units or within the transplant program. Signage will clearly indicate these requirements.

In an outbreak, health-care workers and designated caregivers will be required to follow existing protocols and procedures for use of personal protective equipment.

Shared Health provided this updated guidance to health-care workers earlier today in a memo, which is available at https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/memo-updated-respiratory-virus-guidance.pdf.

Public health officials note other community-based health settings, like doctors’ offices or supportive housing, will continue to be able to decide how and when masks may be used based on the needs of their clients, patients and staff. Decision-making at the local level ensures organizations take an approach that works for their situation.

More broadly, businesses, organizations and facilities should consider the needs of their organization, clients and staff for this upcoming respiratory virus season. Additionally, public health encourages all employers to:

  • support people to stay home when they’re sick;
  • have handwashing or sanitizing options available; and
  • provide opportunities for their staff to be vaccinated.

All Manitobans have the tools they need to help protect themselves, their families and the community during the respiratory virus season including:

  • choosing to be immunized against COVID-19 and the flu;
  • staying home when sick until they feel better and no longer have a fever;
  • washing their hands or using hand sanitizer regularly;
  • covering coughs and sneezes;
  • choosing to wear a mask as an extra layer of protection; and
  • regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces and objects.

COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccines continue to be distributed across the province. The updated COVID-19 vaccine has been formulated to protect against the XBB.1.5 strain and the seasonal flu vaccine is updated annually to provide the best protection against the strains expected to be circulating this year. It is expected that these vaccines will begin to be more widely available to members of the public in the coming weeks, though some sites may have stock earlier than others.

The online vaccine finder at www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine.html#finder is updated with new locations and clinic details as they are submitted to the province. There are many ways people can access their vaccines. Manitobans can contact many pharmacies and medical clinics directly to book an appointment or walk in. Vaccine clinics, including those operated by regional health authorities, generally use the online booking tool at https://patient.petal-health.com/login?groupId=6032 or 1-844-MAN-VACC (1-844-626-8222) to book. Walk-ins may also be available at these clinics.

For more information about seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccines, visit www.manitoba.ca/protectMB. People who have questions about COVID-19 or seasonal flu immunizations should speak with their health-care provider or call Health Links-Info Santé at 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) or 204-788-8200.

A weekly epidemiology update on COVID-19 and seasonal flu is posted every Friday at www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/surveillance/influenza/index.html.