MASKING PROTOCOL FOR DSP WORKERS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The Department of Community Services is implementing a new protocol around masking of staff working in DSP licensed facilities/homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, any staff working in or moving through areas accessed by participants will be asked to wear a procedure mask throughout their entire shift. One (1) procedure mask per shift should be provided by the service provider. An additional mask should be available if required due to soiling.
This protocol applies to residential facilities funded by the Disability Support Program (DSP) and licensed by the Minister of Community Services under the Homes for Special Care Act: Adult Residential Centres (ARC), Regional Rehabilitation Centres (RRC), Residential Care Facilities (RCFs) Small Option Homes, Developmental Residences and Group Homes.
Protocol for masking:
Staff members who have any face-to-face (direct) or indirect contact with participants should wear a procedural/surgical mask. Staff members that do not work in participant areas do not require masks.
Staff members outlined above should wear procedure/surgical masks for the entire duration of their shift.
Staff members should wear their mask throughout repeat close contact encounters and between asymptomatic and symptomatic participant encounters, without removing their mask.
If additional PPE is required for participants with active contact and droplet precautions, gowns, face-shields, and gloves should be changed between participants, but masks should not be removed.
When caring for a participant with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, necessary PPE for droplet and contact precautions should be available immediately outside the participant room for easy access by staff and essential visitors (including family members). This should include gloves, long-sleeved gown, procedure/surgical mask, and eye/face protection.
Instructions for proper universal masking practices
Note: Whenever a mask is removed, it should be safely stored in a clean, dry paper bag (such as a brown paper lunch bag) clearly marked with the wearer’s name.
Donning (putting on) the mask: The staff member must wash their hands and place the mask on their face carefully, handling it with the elastic ear loops as much as possible. If they are putting their mask back on after a break or mealtime, they should remove their mask from the paper bag or clean surface where it was stored, being careful to handle it only by the elastic ear loops. They must discard the bag and wash their hands after donning the mask.
Doffing (removing) mask: The staff member should remove their mask by handling the elastic ear loops, then fold top to bottom and with the front or patient-facing side in and the side that will be against their face out (see video).
As indicated above, the mask should be stored in a paper bag labeled with the wearer’s name and kept in a safe place. The bag should be discarded after use.
If readily available, the mask may be stored in a locker with a hook. Pay close attention not to contaminate the mask in this space.
Meticulous hand hygiene should occur before and after removing the mask and before putting the mask back on.
The mask should be removed whenever the staff member takes a break, eats a meal, or uses the restroom. Social distancing (2 metres) MUST be maintained at all times when not wearing a mask.
The mask should be discarded and replaced when: visibly soiled, it makes directcontact with a patient, or it becomes so moist/humid that its integrity is affected (this includes perspiration). It must be discarded at the end of the shift.
Facility/home administrators need to indicate to staff where to obtain masks at beginning of their shift, both for clinical and non-clinical staff, as well as the process for staff to access additional masks, if required.
Ensure proper training of staff in putting on, storing, and removing PPE, in order to prevent cross contamination and the potential spread of infection. Resources available include Appendix B & C in IPAC Guidance to LTC, an instructional video: https://vimeo.com/403797242 , and the How To Wear A Procedure Mask poster.
DSP MASKING PROTOCOL DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
The Department of Community Services is implementing a masking protocol for staff working in licensed DSP facilities/homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, any staff working in or moving through areas accessed by participants will be asked to wear a procedure mask throughout their entire shift. One (1) procedure mask per shift should be provided by the service provider. An additional mask should be available if required due to soiling.
This protocol applies to residential facilities/homes funded by the Disability Support Program (DSP) and licensed by the Minister of Community Services under the Homes for Special Care Act: Adult Residential Centres (ARC), Regional Rehabilitation Centres (RRC), Residential Care Facilities (RCFs) Small Option Homes, Developmental Residences and Group Homes.
For information regarding the distribution/collection of masks at the start of your shift, please contact your manager or designate.
1. Who should wear masks?
- Any staff who have any face-to-face (direct) or indirect contact with participants should wear a mask. If you are uncertain if you are included in this definition, please contact your manager.
- Note: Masks should only be worn on days when working in a participant accessible area.
- Staff members who do not work in participant areas and are not involved with participant- facing tasks do not require masks.
2. Why are we being asked to wear the same mask throughout the day?
- Several other provinces have seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of COVID-19 in their communities, leading to outbreaks in licensed homes. As we begin to see increasing community spread in Nova Scotia, we want to be ahead of this situation.
- Some staff have been coming to work with mild symptoms, which they do not necessarily perceive to be an infection, or are coming to work while they are well and then later developing mild upper respiratory tract infection symptoms while on duty. This poses a safety risk to both participants and other staff and can result in exposures within the facility/home.
- We are taking this increased measure to ensure the continued safety of both staff and participants.
- Given the expected challenges for service providers in maintaining supply of PPE, extended use of masks – if used properly – may conserve the supply of needed procedure masks while enhancing the safety of residents.
- If your mask becomes soiled or wet (including due to perspiration) throughout your shift, your manager will have a supply of additional masks for you.
3. We have been asked to wear a mask at all times during our shift. When can I remove the mask?
- The mask should be removed whenever a staff member is taking a break, eating a meal, or using the restroom. Store your mask in a safe place in a clean, dry paper bag labeled with your name. Note: This bag should be discarded after each use.
- Social distancing (i.e., maintaining a distance of two (2) metres for residents and other staff) MUST be maintained at all times when not wearing a mask.
4. When I need to remove my mask, how do I remove it safely?
- When you need to remove your mask for a break, meal, or restroom break, please do the following:
- Take a clean, dry paper bag and write your name on it. This is important to make sure the mask can be clearly identified as yours.
- Remove the mask using the ear loops and fold the mask lengthwise from top to bottom, with the front (i.e., resident-facing) side in and the side that will be against your face out (see video https://vimeo.com/403797242)
- Store your mask in a safe place in a clean, dry paper bag labeled with your name. Note: This bag should be discarded after each use.
- A personal locker – if readily available – can be used to store the mask in the locker with a hook. Pay close attention not to contaminate the mask in this space.
- Meticulous hand hygiene should occur before and after removing your mask and before putting the mask back on your face.
5. When is it appropriate to DISCARD my mask and use a new one?
- If your mask gets soiled during the course of your shift, you can request an additionalmask as needed. Your mask should be discarded and replaced when:
- it is visibly soiled
- it makes direct contact with a resident
- it becomes so moist/humid that its integrity is affected (this includes perspiration)
6. How can I tell if my mask is soiled and should be discarded?
- Discard your mask if:
- the mask is directly exposed to respiratory droplets (through saliva/cough/sneeze) o you touch the mask accidently with visibly soiled hands
- your mask is soaked with perspiration
7. How often should I discard and replace the paper bag in which I’m storing my mask?
- The paper bag should be discarded after each use.
8. What if I get a mask that doesn’t fit properly?
- It’s important that your mask fits you properly so that it doesn’t fall off. This will protect participants, other staff, and yourself. Please talk to your supervisor if you’ve been given a mask that does not fit properly.
9. Why are we not giving masks to participants?
- Participants who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are put on droplet and contact precautions, per the guidelines distributed on April 9, 2020.
- Given the potential for PPE shortage, we have elected not to provide participants with masks for source control.
10. Can I bring my OWN procedure masks?
No. At this time, DSP does not support staff bringing in their own supply of masks. Procedure masks purchased for licensed facilities/homes are controlled for quality and we cannot be sure that masks coming from elsewhere meet our quality standards.
11. What do I do if I walk into a droplet precautions room?
- Don eye protection (i.e., eye goggles, face shield)
- If a face shield is used, the procedure mask can continue to be used as the face shield acts as a barrier preventing the mask from being exposed to respiratory droplets.
If eye goggles are used, the procedure mask you are wearing will need to be discarded and a clean one put on. You will need to ensure you have a clean mask available outside the resident’s room so that you can don the new mask immediately after the contaminated mask is removed prior to existing the droplet precautions room.
- Don your assigned procedure mask after performing hand hygiene.
12. How else can I protect myself?
- Clean your hands before and after touching the mask for any reason.
- Avoid touching the mask unless necessary for donning/doffing and, if required, only do so
by the straps.
- Ensure you are wearing the procedure mask appropriately. Masks should:
- fully cover your mouth and nose
- be pulled down to cover your chin
- be fitted to your nose. Press down to mold the metallic strip over the bridge of your nose
- Do not partially remove the mask by pulling it down under your chin. The mask is either
fully on, or fully off. Do not hang the mask around your neck or from your ear.
- Clean your hands before and after contact with every resident.
- Do NOT come to work when ill. Contact your administrator as soon as possible if you do become ill.
13. Some participants still have essential visitors entering the facility/home. Do they need to wear a mask?
- Yes, essential visitors should wear a mask for their entire visit in the facility/home. Prior to entering a participant area, essential visitors should be instructed on how to don and doff their mask safely. Proper hand hygiene must also be enforced.
14. What else do I need to think about?
- Do NOT attempt to sanitize/clean the procedure mask.
- If you have discarded your allocated mask, report to where you acquired your mask at the beginning of the shift to request a new one.