York Region health officials asking you to mask up
Nov. 15, 2022
York Region’s medical leaders are joining the province in making strong recommendations for indoor masking, but mandates are not yet coming.
Polls indicate support for a masking mandate indoors, York’s medical officer of health, Dr. Barry Pakes, said in his video update Nov. 14.
Regarding chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore opting not to put in place a provincial mandate, Pakes said the recommendation make sense and did not mention any local mandate.
However, he emphasized the impact COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are having on children right now, and said masking remains important.
“This is no simple matter,” Pakes said. “More strongly recommending and normalizing mask wearing in crowded, indoor environments and public spaces is reasonable … It is clear that recommendations and mandates make the most sense at the provincial level."
Forum Research released poll results on Friday indicating that 53 per cent of Ontarians indicated agreement to a return of mask mandates, and 72 per cent said they would follow a renewed mandate. NewmarketToday’s online poll, asking for a yes or no response to supporting the return of mask mandates, had 70.06 per cent indicating support as of Nov. 14.
Pakes said the hospital system is being hit hard by a mix of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This has particularly impacted children, with pediatric beds full in the province.
“It is primarily influenza and RSV that have tipped us over the edge,” Pakes said. “Influenza is circulating much earlier than usual and at levels we don’t normally see until later in the season, if at all.”
Moore said school boards and local health units could decide on masking mandates at the school level.
But Pakes said that with about 20 per cent of Ontarians indicating they would resist putting a mask back on, and legitimate concerns and difficulties with getting small children to wear masks, a recommendation to wear masks makes sense for now.
Southlake Regional Health Centre is experiencing high volumes of pediatric patients, according to chief of staff Dr. Charmaine van Schaik. She said that compared to last year, they are seeing more than double the emergency room visits and admissions for pediatric cases of respiratory illnesses, and many of those cases are severe.
“We encourage everyone to help stop the spread of infection by getting your flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster,” she said. She added that you should also wash hands regularly, maintain social distancing and wear masks indoors.
Although the province lifted mask mandates in hospitals in June, Southlake maintained it throughout the summer and still has it in place.
Pakes urged everyone to get a bivalent booster and flu shot, available through york.ca/covid19vaccine. He said that in particular, coverage in those under 50 has stalled.
“There are things we can do for ourselves and for our community.”