Ontario’s top doctor ‘strongly’ recommends masking up indoors

Ontarians should wear masks in all indoor public places, the province’s top doctor advised Monday.

Dr. Kieran Moore “strongly recommends” mask-wearing in these spaces, as some pediatric units in Ontario hospitals say they have been overwhelmed by an influx of sick patients in recent weeks.

At this point, the province has not issued a mandate on the use of masks across the province, although some health officials have requested one.

Moore said the « difficult and complex fall » that had been predicted has materialized as the province grapples with what he described as « three major viral threats »: COVID-19, influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

“All three are actively circulating across Ontario in all of our communities and in the Western Hemisphere, contributing to pressures on our pediatric health care system. As the risk to Ontarians increases, we need to use every layer of protection we have,” Moore said.

When asked why he wasn’t introducing a mask mandate, Moore explained that in the past the requirement hasn’t worked in social settings and today’s announcement was made with the goal of getting Ontarians “back to the basics” of infection prevention.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, speaks during a news conference in Toronto on Monday, April 11, 2022. Moore says the dominant flu strain this season is bad and that’s the one of the factors he weighs as he considers a stronger recommendation on masking. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

« It’s different from COVID. It’s protecting our children and those who are the youngest among us. Please parents, grandparents, siblings: if you have respiratory symptoms, you must hide around those who are vulnerable. »

He said while mandatory masking can reduce risk at the community level, Monday’s recommendation focuses on children in Ontario.

Additionally, Moore explained that if the strain on the province’s health care system continues to mount, a mask mandate would be « the furthest we have to go. »

In an update released by the Department of Health titled « Managing the Pediatric Respiratory Virus Season, » the province said the recommendation also extends to schools and daycares due to the « additional risk of RSV and flu ».

The ministry said children aged two to five should also wear masks under supervision, if they tolerate masking, and can put them on and take them off safely if necessary.

Moore said while he has no jurisdiction over the schools set up, councils may want to consult with their local medical officers for best practices for masking in the future.

His announcement comes a day after Premier Doug Ford urged the public to wear a mask but stopped short of imposing a mandate.

On Friday, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children announced it was suspending some surgeries to « preserve critical care capacity » amid recent surges in patients.

Moore revealed he spoke with SickKids Hospital CEO Ronald Cohn, who said half of the patients ventilated to the hospital’s intensive care unit had RSV and the other half had the flu.

In the past, Moore has said he would recommend masking in some indoor settings if hospitals start canceling surgeries.

The Department of Health update then says it is ready to expand the province’s pediatric capacity to 150% occupancy to accommodate the increase.

Additionally, the ministry said it will request that patients over the age of 14 who require intensive care be treated in an adult hospital.

This is breaking news. More soon.


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