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York Region public health, boards now 'strongly recommending' mask wearing at schools
April 19, 2022

York Region Public Health and York Region's public and school boards are now "strongly recommending" that all students, staff and school visitors wear masks at schools after the Easter break.

A letter sent out to families on April 13 said this move comes as Ontario is experiencing a sixth wave due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron BA.2 variant, face masks should be worn at schools as of Tuesday, April 19.

Mask mandates ended on March 21 and until now, York Region Public Health was strongly encouraging masking in crowded spaces, where there is close contact or poor ventilation.

"We are now recommending that all students and staff wear a well-fitted three-layer mask in classrooms, common areas, including hallways, and while using school transportation," states the letter signed by York Region medical health officer Dr. Barry Pakes, York Region District School Board director Louise Sirisko, and York Catholic District School Board director Domenic Scuglia. 

This change also comes as a result of the increase in staff and student absences in the past two weeks.

"Wearing a mask will slow transmission of COVID-19 and help alleviate staff shortages that might otherwise lead to school closures. It will also protect your child from contracting COVID-19 and missing in-person learning," the letter said.

The timing of the recommendation after Easter is also significant, as the letter said "many students will be returning to school from commemorating holidays with their loved ones and there may be a resulting increase in exposures. Wearing a mask will offer an added layer of protection for yourself and others around you."

Everyone is also encouraged to get vaccinated as an additional protective measure.

Earlier this week, Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said the province has no plans to reintroduce mask mandates for indoor settings unless the health-care system becomes compromised.

He advised children to screen for symptoms before going to school, use rapid antigen tests that are distributed weekly and to get vaccinated.