KHSC details next phase of COVID-19 step-down plan

Kingston General Hospital. Photo by Josie Vallier.

After a request for feedback from the community last month regarding the potential COVID-19 measures in local health care settings, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) has implemented the next phase of its COVID-19 step-down plan.

KHSC shared the following details, of this phase, effective today, Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023:

What has changed:

  • Masks will no longer be mandatory in most areas at KHSC sites, and physical distancing will no longer be required.
  • Masks will continue to be mandatory in the Emergency Department, Children’s Outpatient Clinic, and the Urgent Care Centre.
  • Masking is strongly advised for areas that provide care to patients at higher risk for more serious outcomes from COVID-19 infection (Kidd 9 Oncology, NICU, Burr 3 Dialysis Unit, and Oncology Clinics).
  • 24/7 visiting hours will return at the KGH site to provide more flexibility for patients and families.

What has not changed:

  • Masks will still be required for patients with respiratory symptoms.
  • Visitors and family caregivers with infectious symptoms must postpone their visit.
  • Staff with infectious symptoms must refrain from coming to work.
  • Staff, caregivers and visitors will continue to have access to all personal protective equipment upon entry to patient care areas.
  • A maximum of two visitors at a time at the bedside remains in effect.
  • Masks and hand sanitizer will still be available at our main entrances and throughout our hospital sites.

According to a release from KHSC, the health care organization will support all individuals in their decision to wear a mask if they choose. Staff will be expected to automatically don a mask when caring for patients who wear one. In turn, healthcare workers may also ask a patient to wear a mask as part of their risk assessment process.

“The decision to move ahead with this next phase of the COVID-19 step-down plan has been informed by ongoing analysis of provincial, and regional data,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control. “This data shows very low levels of outbreak numbers, wastewater detection of SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19 test positivity in Southeastern Ontario. Levels this low are unprecedented in our region, given there are no longer any community public health mandates in place.”

As a result, there is now a substantially reduced chance of transmission of COVID-19 within the community and health care settings. On Friday, Jun. 2, 2023, KHSC posted a milestone update on their social media, stating that there were zero active COVID cases in inpatients at local hospitals.

“High rates of hybrid immunity to COVID-19, through combined natural infection and immunization, has also greatly helped reduce severity of symptoms for most individuals,” Dr. Evans continued. “In fact, last week we achieved a significant COVID-19 milestone. For the first time in several years, there were no active COVID-19 inpatient cases at the KGH or HDH sites for five consecutive days.”

KHSC noted that it is also important to remember that as a hospital, KHSC sites are held to a much higher standard for air quality measures and its facilities have industrial air ventilation systems which use specialized air filters to remove particulates from the air.

According to the release, KHSC would like to thank the staff and members of the general public who last week submitted feedback through the online feedback tool. This feedback helped inform the transition of KHSC’s pandemic control measures, the health care agency stated.

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