A top doctor has been urged to ‘urgently explore’ the return of mask mandates amid rising respiratory illnesses
Toronto’s medical officer of health has been urged to ‘urgently’ explore the idea of bringing back mask mandates, starting in schools, as local hospitals deal with growing numbers of children with respiratory illnesses .
The Toronto Board of Health decided to make the request to Dr. Eileen de Villa on Tuesday at its meeting.
Council members passed the following motion on Tuesday, asking that the medical officer of health « urgently explore all avenues towards the reissue of mask mandates, starting with schools. »
Kate Mulligan, Public Member of the Board of Health, moved the motion.
Mulligan, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said she was a mother of three young children and told the council she had her own « terrifying » moment when she had had to rush one of them into the resuscitation room of a hospital emergency department when the child was struggling to breathe.
« I shudder to think if that resource hadn’t been available, » she said.
In an interview later on Tuesday, Mulligan said hospitals were struggling as large numbers of children came to the emergency room with illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
« We’ve heard so much in the news about children suffering from respiratory viruses, COVID, RSV, influenza and flooding in emergency rooms and we really see pediatric healthcare being taxed right now and in full capacity, » she said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Toronto Public Health said de Villa was unavailable for comment, but he said levels of COVID-19 are slowly rising in the city.
“At this point, the public is encouraged to use layers of protection. They should go out and get that bivalent booster shot and keep up to date with those vaccinations, mask up if they go to a crowded environment, and stay home if they are sick,” the statement read.
TPH said it would seek advice from the Ontario government if Toronto sees a « sharp increase » in the number of COVID-19 cases.
« This COVID environment is still new, and something we have never seen before. The need for strict measures will depend on what we see at that time, » the statement said.