Masks won't be required in Quebec psychiatric hospitals as province creates exception to reduced mandate

Quebec psychiatric hospitals have been carved out of the province's reduced mask mandate set to begin Saturday, which will maintain mandatory masks in other health centres. 

Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau said the risk in most mental-hospital settings is comparable to the general community. However, in areas where there may be close contact between psychiatric and COVID-19 patients, such as waiting rooms, "we have to be very careful and make sure that they will be masked."

In other, larger psychiatric institutions, such as the Douglas Mental Hospital in Montreal, "if [staff] and patients want to wear them, then of course [they will be able to]," he said during a Wednesday press conference. "But it will not be mandatory."

Boileau was joined by public health medical advisor Dr. Marie-France Raynault and pediatric infectious diseases specialist Dr. Caroline Quach to provide a snapshot of the pandemic in Quebec.

The sixth wave is on the decline, they said.

"Deaths, hospitalizations, absences," listed Boileau, "all indicators suggest that we can gradually return to normal."

Part of that "return to normal" is a significantly reduced public mask mandate, which will allow Quebecers to appear maskless in most public spaces.

Masks will still be required on public transit, as well as in most health-care settings, except in mental health units.

HOSPITALIZATIONS TO KEEP DROPPING: PROJECTIONS

Quebec's public health institute released new projections on hospitalizations suggesting vacancy will rise in both general and intensive care units. 

For the first week of May, about half -- 48 per cent -- of those in hospital with COVID-19 caught the virus after being admitted. 

Now that fourth-dose vaccines are open to the general public, Boileau also added some details on what the province is expecting. He said that pregnant people and others with heightened risk are encouraged to get the extra dose, and those who are low-risk may get it if they choose, though it likely won't increase their immunity too much.

He did double down on urging the entire population to get a third dose, which he said was much more important than the fourth dose for preventing severe illness. Only about half of Quebecers have a third dose.

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