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Nova Scotia Health, IWK to drop mask requirements in some facility areas – Halifax

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Nova Scotia’s two health authorities plan to drop COVID-19 masking requirements in some areas of their facilities this week, though masks will still be required in high-risk spaces.

Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Center are changing their guidelines beginning Monday.

Nova Scotia Health spokesperson Jennifer Lewandowski said in a statement that this was an “evaluated response to where we are as an organization and what’s happening in the community from a COVID-19 perspective.”

“While COVID-19 continues to circulate, COVID-19 activity has continued to decline with fewer hospitals and outbreaks and fewer health-care staff off work due to COVID-19,” the statement said.

“It is a good time to make a measured step. We will continue to reassess our guidance and other measures and will make changes if needed.”

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She said masks will still be required in inpatient areas, emergency departments and some designated outpatient areas that provide services to high-risk patients, “most specifically those patients who are at a high risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection.”

“We are continuing masking in the highest-risk areas in our facilities and remain committed to the protection of our patients, clients, essential care partners and visitors,” said Lewandowski.

“A detailed point-of-care risk assessment is required for each patient interaction to determine what level of personal protective equipment may be required during their care or service.”

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She added that health-care staff will wear a mask during any interaction with a patient who presents for care wearing a mask, or who requests that their provider wear a mask.

The IWK Health Centre, the province’s other health authority which oversees the largest children’s hospital in Atlantic Canada, said in a statement that as of Monday, masks will no longer be required in IWK public spaces and ambulatory care spaces.

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“However, mandatory masking requirements will remain in place for direct patient care encounters in all inpatient care areas, day surgery and the emergency department,” said spokesperson Andrea Slaney.

“For any ambulatory care interaction in which the patient and/or support persons are wearing masks for any reason, staff must also wear a mask.”

Health order lifted in May

In May, the province lifted its COVID-19 Health Protection Act order which allowed the chief medical officer of health to impose restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

With that change, employers and operators of high-risk settings were made responsible for policies around COVID-19, including masking. At the time, Nova Scotia Health and the IWK chose to keep their masking requirements in place.

The province also discontinued updating its weekly COVID-19 dashboard, instead switching to monthly reports.

According to its latest report, which covers the month of May, there were 814 people who tested positive on a PCR test, 77 hospitalizations and one death from COVID-19.

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