Horizon Health Network says it's bringing back masking requirements in anticipation of an increase in COVID-19 cases and other respiratory viruses in its hospitals and wider community.
As of Wednesday, regional hospitals with two or more outbreak units, and community hospitals with one or more outbreak units, will require people wear medical-grade face masks, Horizon said in a news release Tuesday.
The requirement will apply to physicians and other staff, volunteers, patients, social visitors and designated support persons while they are in inpatient units, emergency departments, ambulatory care, outpatient services and waiting room areas and other clinical settings.
Masking will not be required in public areas such as lobbies or cafeterias, but masks will be available for anyone who wants to wear one, Horizon said.
Horizon did not say in its news release whether there were any outbreak units at its hospitals now.
Last week the health authority reported it had outbreaks in seven units in the Moncton Hospital, including family practice-palliative care, general surgery, cardiology, family practice-stroke, geriatrics rehabilitation, orthopedics and neuroscience.
Horizon's online COVID dashboard also shows three outbreaks in units in Saint John but doesn't specify where.
The updated measures about masking come after New Brunswick Public Health reported four new COVID-19 deaths between Sep 3 and Sep 16.
They also follow moves by health authorities in other parts of Canada, including British Columbia, which reinstated a mask mandate last month in all health-care settings and long-term care homes.
"Wearing a medical grade face mask is an effective, proven way to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory viruses," Horizon said in its release Tuesday.
Horizon said social visitors are not permitted to visit patients in a Horizon hospital or any long-term-care unit that has a respiratory virus outbreak.
Designated support persons are allowed, but they wear a medical-grade face mask at all times while on outbreak units.