After weeks of urging the Ontario government to reinstate some COVID-19 measures during a sixth wave, three high-profile physicians have written to the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health asking that mandatory masking be restored to all indoor environments.
Each of these doctors signed the letter addressed to Dr. Kieran Moore to highlight their concerns about the burden that COVID-19 continues to have on their communities:
- Windsor-Essex Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai.
- Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara Medical Officer of Health.
- Dr Thomas Piggott of Peterborough Public Health.
For weeks, the three have stressed the need for a regional approach to dealing with COVID-19 case numbers.
“We are writing to you today to commend you for your leadership last week … in continuing to demand masks in several high-risk settings,” the letter reads.
“We are also writing to you today to recommend that you continue this action. Specifically, to temporarily expand Ontario’s mask requirements to include indoor public spaces such as workplaces, schools, colleges and universities, as well as essential service establishments (such as grocery stores and pharmacies). »
CBC News has contacted the Ontario Ministry of Health for comment. In an email, a ministry spokesperson said, “As the government is in interim mode for the duration of the provincial election, this media request cannot be accommodated at this time.
At a press conference on Thursday, Nesathurai said the letter was officially sent on Wednesday evening.
“We hope the province will take steps to move forward,” he said. “Looking at where we are in the pandemic and our experience, I think it’s still a valid measure.”
Ontario removed most mask mandates — including in schools, restaurants, gyms and stores — on March 21. In April, the province extended its mask mandate for high-risk indoor environments.
The province’s top doctor and some health units, including in Windsor-Essex, have strongly advised mask-wearing to continue in schools, but have not issued an order or directive. The London and Ottawa school boards have issued their own mandates for staff and students.
Nesathurai said he and his colleagues had continued dialogues with provincial officials, but felt sending a letter was a necessary step.
“I think it’s our responsibility as public health to contribute to the dialogue on this issue,” Nesathurai said, calling the pandemic the most important health event of his life.
The doctor said that while he and his colleagues have the authority to issue a Section 22 order in their districts to restore mask-wearing, they believe a regional approach is best. The section of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act gives local chief medical officers some authority when faced with public health crises.
“The burden of COVID remains significant for our society. We must learn to live with COVID,” he said.
“But part of learning to live with it is identifying strategies that will help lessen the disease burden by recognizing that it is likely to have an increased activity level and a reduced activity level. “
Nesathurai said local and provincial data this week show the disease is at a more stable level.
On Wednesday, Ontario reported 1,698 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 31 more virus-related deaths, as the science table chief says the province has likely reached the peak of the sixth wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Peter Jüni, director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said hospitalizations and infections seen in sewage data are gradually slowing.
“I think we’re on the right track,” Jüni told CBC News Network on Tuesday. “If it continues to [decrease]from what we’re seeing right now, we should be back to normal within the next few weeks.”
But Jüni warned “it’s important not to speed up,” adding that Ontarians should continue to wear masks and limit contact when possible.