With increased foot traffic in the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, hospital officials are developing a policy to make wearing a mask or face covering mandatory for anyone entering the hospital.

Surgical capacity has increased to 50 per cent and more patients are attending the hospital’s emergency department again since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Dr. Stewart Kennedy, incident manager, said it’s nice that people are more comfortable coming to the emergency room again.

He noted they have seen an increase of patients with strokes and heart attacks coming to the emergency room. Kennedy believes it’s because people were staying home too long in order to avoid the hospital during the height of the pandemic.

And with that increase in people attending the health sciences centre, Kennedy said out of respect for staff and patients, anyone coming into the building either as a patient or a care partner is being asked to wear a mask or any type of face covering that covers the nose and mouth.

“Evidence shows it does prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Kennedy, in the hospital’s daily COVID-19 situation report.

He added he believes everyone has a duty to wear a mask at the hospital.

It is already mandatory for staff to wear a mask when not in an office or area where other people are attending. Kennedy said the hospital is working on a mandatory policy for patients and care partners. That policy is expected to be in place soon, he said.

The hospital also can’t provide masks for everyone so people are asked to bring their own.

Kennedy said Thunder Bay is doing “outstanding” when it comes to keeping numbers of the virus low in the district.

“We need to continue to do outstanding as the long weekend comes up,” he said, adding he was concerned with travel restrictions being lifted that more people will be travelling through the city.

Kennedy stressed that with more people possibly travelling, it is important to continue with public health standards around physical distancing and wearing a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible.

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