The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced today that the flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, lifting the requirement for unvaccinated healthcare workers to wear surgical masks in hospitals and many other healthcare facilities.
The flu had reached widespread level in Rhode Island on March 2, 2016.
"Rhode Island healthcare workers should be commended for helping prevent the spread of the flu in healthcare facilities, and for protecting the patients they care for, by wearing masks," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "However, flu season is not over yet. For people who have not been vaccinated yet, there is still time to get a flu shot. The flu causes missed days of school and missed days of work, and it forces many people to spend a week in bed. Vaccination is the best protection."
The healthcare facilities and organizations in which the masking requirement applied are: 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.
Although the masking requirement was lifted, should an individual healthcare facility experience a flu outbreak, the Director of Health may require unvaccinated healthcare workers in that facility to wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.
Everyone older than 6 months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. 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). Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue, and runny nose. Some people also have vomiting and diarrhea. Flu shots are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies throughout Rhode Island. For more information about the flu, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu