Masks to stay on at London hospitals past Saturday

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / lzf

Two London hospital networks have reaffirmed they will not be dropping mandatory face coverings inside their facilities when the province lifts the remaining mask mandates this weekend.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London and the London Health Sciences Centre said Thursday they will be keeping the masking requirement for staff, patients, and visitors for the foreseeable future.

“Masks slow the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses and are one way we can continue to protect our vulnerable patients and residents from potential exposure to COVID-19,” St. Joseph’s President and CEO Roy Butler said in a statement. “As always, the top priority at St. Joseph’s is the safety of those we serve.”

Both hospital networks joined others across the south west region in April in collectively announcing they would keep masking policies indefinitely. The hospitals also continue active COVID-19 screening of all patients and visitors.

The clarification from the hospitals comes a day after Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore issued a statement that most of the province’s remaining mask mandates would be lifted as of 12 a.m. on Saturday. He cited high vaccination rates and Ontario’s improving COVID-19 situation as indicators it was time to end the directives.

While masking was dropped for the bulk of public spaces on March 21, it had remained a requirement on public transit and in hospitals and health-care spaces.

Moore did note that individual organizations can still implement their own masking policies going forward and that individuals can still choose to wear a face covering.

“Ontarians should continue to wear a mask if they feel it is right for them, are at high risk for severe illness, recovering from COVID-19, have symptoms of the virus or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19,” Moore said.

Moore added that mandatory masking will continue to be required in long-term care and retirement homes across the province. There is no indication when the requirement will be lifted in those settings.