Canadian Blood Services drops mask requirement
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Without fanfare or publicity, the agency in charge of Canada’s blood supply has quietly dropped the mask requirement at its donation sites.
On Monday, it lifted some of its COVID-19 pandemic-related rules.
“We’ve determined it’s the right time to suspend some of our mandatory measures, such as masks and physical distancing,” Canadian Blood Services said in an undated post on its website.
At the Winnipeg donation site on William Avenue, a sign on the front door notifies visitors: “This is a mask-friendly environment. Masks are available for those who choose to wear one.”
In Manitoba, health-care facilities require a mask be worn by anyone present, including outpatients, visitors, and health-care workers.
The situation is different at Canadian Blood Services, because it’s not a facility treating the sick or vulnerable. Donors are required to make appointments and pre-screen to make sure they’re not ill before they arrive. Anyone entering the building is still being screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
At the Winnipeg site next to the Health Sciences Centre, it appeared to be business as usual Wednesday, with the parking lot full.
No one with Canadian Blood Services was available for an interview Wednesday, its media contact person said in an email.
When asked if lifting the mask requirement has had any impact so far on donations, no answer was provided.
Canadian Blood Services wouldn’t say if more donors, as a result of the relaxed pandemic rules, are booking or cancelling appointments during summer “trauma season.”
Questions emailed to its media department were responded to with excerpts from its website rather than answers.
“No further information is available at this time,” the media contact person said.
The union representing employees at the William Avenue clinic in Winnipeg, however, said: so far, so good.
“We have received no complaints from staff thus far about the new employer policy regarding mask usage,” Sheila Gordon, Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union director of negotiations, said in a statement.
The union said it received a heads-up in June the mask and physical-distancing requirements would be lifted.
MGEU represents 74 employees at Canadian Blood Services in Winnipeg who do everything from taking blood (called donor care associates) to driving, administration and logistics.
“For those staff who do wish to wear the mask, that option is there, but for those who do not, this policy is not inconsistent with current public health orders,” the MGEU statement said.
Masks are known to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and are welcome and available to anyone who chooses to wear them, Canadian Blood Services says on its website. It is asking people to “please consider physically distancing from others where possible.”
The agency said its suspension of mandatory masking and physical distancing “aligns with epidemiological advice: that we are at a stage in this pandemic where we can shift from mandatory to optional measures.” That could change, it noted.
“We have been committed to monitoring and assessing our COVID-19 measures and will continue to closely monitor the epidemiology and scientific knowledge. We may reintroduce mandatory masks and physical distancing, if necessary.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.