Providence, R.I. — The RI Department of Health announced Tuesday that cases of flu in the state are now “widespread,” requiring unvaccinated healthcare workers in hospitals and healthcare facilities to wear surgical masks.
The department also encouraged those who have not received a flu vaccine shot to do so to provide protection for their loved ones and friends.
“The masking requirement is critical in protecting healthcare workers from catching the flu, and also in protecting patients who are often dealing with other serious health issues,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “For people who have not been vaccinated yet, it is not too late. Flu vaccine is the best way to keep yourself and the people you love safe from the flu.”
Facilities where the public should now expect to see masked personnel include Adult day care programs; Assisted living facilities; CVS Minute Clinics; Free-standing ambulatory care surgical centers; Free-standing emergency care facilities; Home care providers; Home nursing care providers; Hospice providers Hospitals; Kidney treatment centers; Nursing facilities; Organized ambulatory care facilities; and Physician ambulatory surgery centers.
Masks are required for “direct patient contact” — routinely anticipated face-to-face contact with patients, such as entering a patient’s room, serving food to patients, or participating in group patient activities.
Anyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated against the flu every year, the health department reported. In addition to healthcare workers, vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions (such as heart, lung, or kidney disease; diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems).
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