Ontario’s government is ‘strongly’ recommending masks indoors
Despite increasingly urgent calls from doctors for a renewed mask mandate in Ontario, the province has issued a “strong” recommendation — leaving masking up to individuals at a time when, experts say, governments are wary of the political consequences of forcing health restrictions onto the public.
Medical professionals have urged new masking requirements in indoor spaces, including in schools, as hospitals across Ontario feel an earlier-than-usual strain from patients ill with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, as well as COVID-19.
In Ontario, some children’s hospitals are scaling back procedures and sending some older patients to adult hospitals, as their intensive care units are overflowing with cases of respiratory illnesses in kids. Pediatric hospitals in Quebec also report their emergency rooms are operating beyond capacity due to the three viruses.
On Monday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, recommended wearing masks indoors, including at social events where young children were present, as kids aged four and under were “highly susceptible” to RSV and influenza.
Moore was still “discussing and reviewing” whether masks should be mandatory in schools, he said.
The Ontario Medical Association welcomed the province’s recommendation, but individual doctors are continuing to push for more measures in schools to help reduce the pressure hospitals will face in the weeks ahead.
Political and health experts say they believe the government is concerned about the potential for a public backlash, with protests over various other pandemic-related restrictions — including vaccine mandates — still fresh in its memory.
“I think part of what’s going on here, both at the level of the medical officials and of the premier, is an assessment of the political risk of requiring something that may be very unpopular and not followed that closely by a fair number of Ontarians,” said Peter Graefe, an associate professor of political science at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
A mandate could be interpreted as a signal that it’s no longer safe to dine out, shop, or visit other businesses — many of which have already struggled through multiple prolonged lockdowns, Brock said. (CBC)