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Masks will continue to be required in Waterloo-Wellington hospitals

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With most remaining provincial mask mandates set to expire on Saturday June 11, hospitals in Waterloo Region and Wellington County have announced face coverings will continue to be required inside their facilities for the foreseeable future.

“We know that masks work, so we are going to continue that masking mandate,” said Marianne Walker, president and CEO of Guelph General Hospital. “Anyone coming into the hospital will need to continue to wear a mask.”

The local directive covers Grand River Hospital, St. Mary’s General Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Guelph General Hospital and Groves Memorial Community Hospital.

The hospitals say the current COVID-19 situation is under control, but they're still strained and dealing with backlogs.

“We need to prevent outbreaks so we can continue providing services, such as surgical,” said Walker. “We have a backlog and we want to make sure we have the staff and capacity to provide that care.”

LOCAL DOCTOR 'RELIEVED'

Word of the mask mandate extension is welcome news for one local emergency room doctor.

“I'm actually relieved to hear that people will need to continue to mask in hospitals,” said Dr. Rupinder Sahsi. “We know that two-way masking works significantly better to reduce the risk of COVID than one-way masking.”

Sahsi said masks help keep critical staff healthy and will help ensure hospitals are safe for the most vulnerable.

“People who are immunocompromised, people with cancer, people undergoing multiple treatments, these are people who if they got COVID, would be at risk of getting really really sick,” Sahsi said. “We want them to fell safe coming to hospital and masks are part of that."

PROVINCIAL RULES

The provincial mask mandate in most settings was lifted on March 21, but has remained in effect in a number of high risk settings, including on public transit, in health-care settings such as at hospitals or in doctor’s offices, at long-term care and retirement homes and in shelters and other congregate settings that provide care to medically and socially vulnerable individuals.

Initially, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore had intended to lift the mandate for high-risk settings by April 27 but he extended it due to the sixth wave of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Dr. Moore confirmed most remaining mask mandates will expire as of 12 a.m. on June 11, including in hospitals. The directive for hospitals and health care settings will be replaced by guidance from the health ministry.

Masks will continue to be required in long-term care and retirement homes.

With files from CTV Toronto

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