‘Preventative measures are needed to ensure the risk of exposure to this virus is minimized for patients and our dedicated front-line clinical staff who care for them’
Manitoba is requiring visitors to all healthcare facilities to wear non-medical masks beginning Sept. 1 to limit the risk of COVID-19 exposure among senior residents and front-line healthcare workers.
“Our government is committed to taking all appropriate steps to protect the health of Manitobans as we continue to learn to live with this virus,” said Cameron Friesen, minister of health, seniors and active living. “As we move towards the fall, additional proactive and preventative measures are needed to ensure the risk of exposure to this virus is minimized for patients and our dedicated front-line clinical staff who care for them.”
The requirement extends to outpatients attending appointments at clinics within hospitals and health centres throughout the province. Visitors are asked to arrive at facilities with their own non-medical mask. Those who do not have a mask will be notified of locations where they may be purchased. In certain circumstances, they will be provided with one.
The policy expands upon a requirement already in place for more than a month at personal care homes, where visitors are mandated to wear non-medical masks during indoor visits. It also builds on a number of initiatives implemented since the start of the pandemic to protect patients and staff at Manitoba healthcare facilities from COVID-19, including:
- appropriate use of personal protective equipment
- enhanced visitor restrictions
- routine deep cleans of clinical departments, including examination and waiting rooms
- daily screening of staff prior to the start of their shifts
- implementation of the single-site staffing model at personal care homes.
While primary care clinics and other locations providing health services are not currently included in the mask requirement, all Manitobans are strongly encouraged to wear a non-medical mask when seeking care, said Friesen. Friesen also noted the non-medical mask requirement does not apply to children under the age of two, as well as those with an underlying medical condition that may inhibit their ability to wear a mask.
Effectiveness of masks
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear masks in public settings and when around people who do not live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
“Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control,” said CDC. “This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.”
Mask use for Grade 4 to 12 students, and all school staff, will be mandatory when Alberta school returns for the 2020-21 year as the province continues to combat COVID-19.
Previously, Health Canada has warned that fraudulent and uncertified N95 respirators that are not certified by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) may not protect its users against the COVID-19 coronavirus.