The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has alerted healthcare providers that the flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, which means that healthcare workers who have not been immunized against the flu are no longer required to wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.
The flu had been declared widespread in Rhode Island on January 11, 2017. Widespread is the highest tier in the five-tier system that RIDOH uses to categorize flu activity in the state.
"Although the flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, it is still present in the state. Anyone who has not been vaccinated yet should be vaccinated as soon as possible," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "When you get a flu shot, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also protecting the ones you love by preventing the spread of the flu."
Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma.
Although the masking requirement has been lifted for healthcare workers, should a flu outbreak occur in an individual healthcare facility, the Director of Health may require unvaccinated healthcare workers in that facility to wear masks when engaged in direct patient contact.