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B.C. to tighten safety measures at health care facilities

The B.C. government will implement safety measures in health care facilities ahead of respiratory infection season, including masking and visitor screening.

Provincial government officials said the steps are being taken to protect people, communities and the health care system this fall.

As of Oct. 3, health care workers, volunteers and contractors will have to wear a mask at all times while in a facility.

“As respiratory infections are increasing in communities in B.C., the risk also increases in health-care facilities where people may be more at risk of severe infections or complications,” said B.C. government officials.

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Visitors will have to take some extra steps as well.

“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 and activities in communal areas of the care home or residence,” said the province.

“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 B.C. government said the fall and winter flu season can add strain to the province’s health care system, so officials are preparing to have additional beds where they may be needed.

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“This includes daily coordination planning between the Province, health authorities and the BC Emergency Health Services, as well as continuing efforts to strengthen the health-care system through B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy,” said B.C. government officials.

Health Minister Adrian Dix emphasized the importance of preparing for the flu season.

“An increase in hospital visits with the fall respiratory illness season requires measures to ensure our acute care is effective and our health-care system is strong, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We all know that getting immunized is the best way for us to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the B.C. health care workers we rely on. 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.”

Vaccines will be available to all residents Oct. 10, which will be free for those six months of age and older.

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“We are starting to see increasing respiratory virus infections in B.C., 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,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “That includes covering your cough, cleaning your hands regularly, staying away from others if you have a cough or a fever, wearing masks if you have lingering symptoms or need extra protection and getting the updated COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. By getting immunized for both COVID-19 and influenza, we are not only protecting ourselves, but also those around us.”

Vaccines will be given to priority populations before the general availability date.

“This includes people most at risk of severe illness and complications, such as seniors 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities, Indigenous peoples, pregnant people and those with chronic health conditions (e.g., cancer, HIV, hepatitis C, diabetes), as well as health-care workers,” said B.C. government officials.

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