Alberta Health Services (AHS) has announced that they have 'adopted an enhanced masking directive' to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 within their acute care facilities.

According to AHS, the Use of Masks to Prevent Transmission of COVID-19 Directive, which comes into effect today, October 11, will allow zone leadership to require enhanced masking by all AHS staff, physicians, midwives, students, volunteers, contracted service providers, as well as workers at Alberta Precision Laboratories in acute care facilities.

"Additionally, where the enhanced measures are implemented, masking would be required for patients, designated support persons and visitors in Emergency Departments in acute care facilities. No patient shall be denied services."

Masking will also continue to be required for workers, family/support persons and visitors when:

  • Recommended during an outbreak by the Medical Officer of Health according to the Communicable Disease Control Outbreak Guides;
  • For staff, as identified by the Attending Work with COVID-19 Symptoms or a Positive COVID-19 Test;
  • Or when in contact with a severely immunocompromised individual.

AHS underlines the directive supports zone and site leadership to determine if enhanced masking is necessary, and can include patient care areas, elevators/staircases/hallways, common areas, gift shops, and cafeterias where patient contact could occur in acute care facilities.

"Decisions to implement enhanced masking will be based on several factors which consider the rate of hospitalizations, number of outbreaks, occupancy, test positivity, and situational context. Site signage will indicate when enhanced masking is being implemented."

However, wearing a mask is optional for AHS workers when they are in an area where there is no contact with patients (staff break rooms/meeting rooms, corporate settings, health records departments).

"Masking is also optional at continuing care and Addiction and Mental Health settings that are not within an acute care site. However, AHS continues to respect the choice to voluntarily wear a mask in all areas and encourages those who want to wear a mask to continue to wear one."

AHS said that it continues to rely on data, and will engage clinical experts, unions, frontline healthcare workers and other key stakeholders to help determine requirements for enhanced masking.

According to the province's respiratory dashboard, during the week of September 24, there were 730 COVID-19 cases across the province, and data is showing an upward trend of COVID-19. Cumulatively, there have been over 2,000 cases of COVID-19 this season. During the same timeframe, there were 15 RSV cases, which also appear to be rising from week to week. There are also 20 cases of influenza, which appears to have dropped slightly since the previous reporting week.

There are currently 62 respiratory virus outbreaks across the province, with six acute care facilities in the Calgary zone currently impacted. Edmonton zone acute care facilities have 34 outbreaks, the most across the province overall.

The most impacted facility in the Calgary zone continues to be Supportive Living/Home Living Sites. There are 30 supportive living facilities in the Calgary zone that are impacted by an outbreak. COVID-19 appears to be the most common source of outbreaks. 

Earlier this month, health officials in British Columbia, confirmed that as of Tuesday, October 3, mandatory masking would be put back into effect in the province's healthcare facilities. 

"Long-term care visitors will be required to wear a medical mask when they are in common areas of the home and when participating in indoor events, gatherings, activities in communal areas of the care home or residence," a previous news release on the B.C. government's website stated.

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