The Rhode Island Department of Health is announcing that the flu is now widespread in Rhode Island, triggering the requirement for unvaccinated workers in hospitals and many other care facilities to wear masks during direct patient contact.

“The masking requirement helps protect healthcare workers from catching the flu, and helps protect patients who are often dealing with other serious health issues,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott. “For people who have not been vaccinated yet, it is not too late. Flu vaccination is the single best way to keep yourself and the people you love safe from the flu. Getting vaccinated today will still provide you with months of protection.”

Unvaccinated workers must wear masks when involved in direct patient contact at the types of facilities listed below. Examples of direct patient contact are entering a patient’s room, serving food to patients, or participating in group patient activities. The requirement also applies to all licensed Emergency Medical Services (EMS) practitioners who have not been vaccinated against the flu.

Widespread is the highest tier in the five-tier system used to measure flu activity. Massachusetts, Connecticut and many other states throughout the country are also currently experiencing widespread flu.

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