Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory inside NWT Health and Social Services facilities.
The requirement was removed as of Monday.
Masking in Health and Social Services workplaces was put in place early in the pandemic as a protective measure for staff and patients.
“Covid-19 remains an issue that we will be dealing with as a health and social services system and as a society for the foreseeable future,” said David Maguire, spokesperson for the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA). ”Fortunately, we have good tools to help manage or prevent the disease caused by the virus, including vaccination, therapeutic drugs and protective practices such as masking.”
He added that though mandatory masking has been lifted, people who would prefer to wear a mask in NTHSSA facilities are still encouraged to do so, and these practices will ensure that higher risk patients have additional protection.
NTHSSA staff will continue to wear masks when providing care to patients or clients if patient when those individuals have symptoms of respiratory illness or other illnesses, when caring for patients under isolation protocols, in the event of an outbreak and in clinical areas where mask-wearing is routine, such as operating rooms.
On May 5, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the Covid-19 public health emergency had ended, “but this does not mean that disease is no longer a threat,” said Maguire. “The virus remains a concern and still can result in illness, severe outcomes and deaths.”
Since April 1, the NWT is no longer tracking individual cases of Covid-19, and is instead looking at severe outcomes and monitoring wastewater for changes over time to detect high or increasing levels of Covid activity in a community.
As the rate of severe outcomes has decreased significantly over the past year, Maguire said NTHSSA has adopted a similar approach to Covid-19 as with other respiratory illnesses.
“This means that the focus has shifted from mandates to public health recommendations,” he said.
Maguire noted that the most important thing is to ensure that Covid immunizations are up to date and NTHSSA continues to recommend people conduct their own personal risk assessment. This includes deciding to mask when people have respiratory symptoms. By doing that, it will protect high-risk populations and the public.
Masks will still be available to the public, and NTHSSA facilities will continue to be mask-friendly.