Thunder Bay

Face masks becoming mandatory at Thunder Bay hospital this week

Everyone working at, or going to, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will be required to wear a face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctor heading up the facility's pandemic response said.

Dr. Stewart Kennedy says decision comes due to the high number of asymptomatic people with COVID-19

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will require staff and any other visitors to the facility to start wearing face masks starting this week as part of its effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Everyone working at, or going to, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will be required to wear a face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctor heading up the facility's pandemic response said.

The hospital, he said, has ordered cloth masks from a Thunder Bay supplier, and they should arrive in the next few days.

"We will have enough masks for the total hospital population, probably, by the end of this week," Kennedy said.

Kennedy acknowledged the cloth masks aren't as effective as surgical masks, and N95 masks, when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus.

"They do prevent the person wearing them from spreading the infection to somebody else, and that's the key when you deal with a high asymptomatic population," Kennedy said.

The cloth masks, he said, will only be worn by staff who aren't directly providing patient care. Staff will be required to switch to surgical masks, or N95 masks, if they do work directly with patients, Kennedy said.

The hospital has also begun screening people for COVID-19 if they show just one symptom, Kennedy said; as of last week, screening was only being done if someone showed two or more symptoms.

Kennedy said, overall, the hospital's pandemic response is going "better than we had planned."

"So far, we've avoided the major influx of patients," he said. "It's working at this point in time great, but still very fragile in the community. It just takes one person to break the chain, and then we're in trouble."

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