Hospitals in Ontario Reinstate Mask Mandates as COVID-19 Cases Surge
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Ontario, a new wave of the pandemic is being indicated. In response to this, numerous hospitals including St. Joseph’s Healthcare and Hamilton Health Sciences have reinstated mask mandates for their staff. Although the enforcement of these measures varies across hospitals, with some only applying it to patient-care areas, they are expected to remain in place throughout the peak of the respiratory season.
Masking Measures in Response to Rising COVID-19 Cases
The reintroduction of mask mandates by hospitals in Ontario is a direct response to the increasing COVID-19 cases in the province. The renewed guidelines now require hospital staff to wear masks when interacting with patients. While the hospitals have emphasized that this measure is temporary, they anticipate the need for clinical masking throughout the respiratory season.
Other hospitals in Ontario, such as Guelph General Hospital and those in Kingston and Ottawa, have also implemented mask mandates in response to the increasing COVID-19 cases. In Toronto area hospitals, masks remain mandatory in patient care areas but are optional in other spaces. This approach has been deemed appropriate in light of current and expected viral transmission rates during the fall season.
Unique Challenges Faced by Hospitals
Dr. Fahad Razak, an internist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, asserts that the individual changes in masking guidelines by hospitals reflect the recognition that Ontario is experiencing another wave of COVID-19. The hospital environment poses a unique challenge as it contains a concentrated population of vulnerable individuals. Rising COVID-19 activity has been observed in Ontario since early August, with recent wastewater testing revealing activity levels not seen since last March. Positivity rates have also increased, reaching around 14.1% in early September.
Impact on the Healthcare System
Dr. Razak urges people to consider the impact on the healthcare system as a whole, emphasizing that when resources are strained and wait times increase, all aspects of care are affected. As the province enters this new wave, it is crucial to continue practicing preventive measures such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and getting vaccinated.
Increasing COVID-19 Cases and Approaching Flu Season
In addition to increasing COVID-19 cases, Ontario is also bracing for the flu season. This looming threat over an already strained health system is a cause for concern. Emergency rooms across the province have had to close for hours or days at a time throughout the summer, with some closures persisting. Many ERs are reporting high patient volumes and long wait times, with children’s hospitals in particular reporting high demand.
Dr. Razak warns that the kind of strain seen through August and September is normally experienced in the midst of a bad flu season, which is worrying. He suggests that the criteria to require something like a mask mandate are clearly here, and for those who disagree, he asks them to consider how the healthcare system, which has so little capacity, can continue to run over the winter.
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