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Masks will soon be mandatory in British Columbian healthcare settings once again.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that medical mask wearing will be required by all heathcare workers, volunteers, contractors and visitors in patient care areas.
The mandate will go into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
"We are starting to see increasing respiratory virus infections in BC, including COVID-19, and now is the time to remember the healthy habits we can all do to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities," Henry said Thursday.
Long-term care visitors will be required to wear a medical mask when in common areas of the home and participating in indoor events, gatherings and activities in communal areas.
In addition, the Province says ambassadors will be at facility entrances to support screening for symptoms of respiratory illnesses, hand out medical masks and ensure people clean their hands before entering.
The reintroduction of the healthcare mask mandate came as Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix spoke publicly about the respiratory illness season and measures to ensure the healthcare system can handle the added load.
"We all know that getting immunized is the best way for us to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the BC healthcare workers we rely on,” noted Dix.
“We all know that to keep ourselves healthy and our health-care system strong, we all need to do our part. And by getting our free and readily available COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time, we're all doing precisely what's needed."
Public health officials are urging British Columbians above the age of six months to get both their COVID-19 and influenza vaccines as they become available in October.
According to the Province, priority populations will be invited to book vaccine appointments in early October, which includes those at most risk of severe illness and healthcare workers.
Invitations to book immunization appointments will begin for the general public on Oct. 10, with people able to get both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time if they wish.
“Health Canada approved the updated Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty Omicron XBB.1.5. COVID-19 vaccines on Sept. 28, 2023, and the COVID-19 Moderna Spikevax vaccine on Sept. 12, 2023, and they will be available in BC soon,” explains a release from the Province.
“The new vaccines target the XBB.1.5 subvariant and are approved for use in people six months and older. The updated Novavax vaccine is expected to be approved shortly and will also be available throughout the province.”
The Province adds that with more strain expected on BC’s healthcare system during fall and winter, plans are in place to add hospital beds and expedite patient flow as needed.
Those efforts will happen with daily coordination planning between the Province, health authorities and BC Emergency Health Services.