Ontario's health minister says masking 'a personal choice,' a day after top doctor urges public to do so
Nov. 16, 2022
Ontario's health minister said it's a "personal choice" to wear a mask Tuesday, one day after the province's top
doctor urged everyone to do so in all indoor spaces.
A masked Sylvia Jones defended the majority of her Progressive Conservative colleagues who did not wear masks in the legislature -- including Premier Doug Ford. Twelve other Tory colleagues wore masks, including the Speaker of the House.
All opposition members wore masks.
"I think what we are seeing is people are making determinations based on their personal circumstances. Personal choice is important here," Jones, who had COVID-19 three weeks ago, told reporters.
Pressed afterwards by reporters about why most of the caucus was unmasked, Jones responded: "I think you have to take into consideration the size of the building, the size of the room."
Moore's recommendation Monday did not make mention of room size.
Surge of young patients in ICU
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the masking recommendation in a bid to ease pressure on children's hospitals, which are at capacity provincewide due to respiratory illnesses and have had to cancel non-urgent surgeries to deal with the surge of young patients in intensive care, emergency departments and pediatric wards.
Pediatric hospitals across the province are at capacity, he said. Those hospitals have had to cancel non-urgent surgeries to deal with the surge of young patients in intensive care, emergency departments and pediatric wards.
Ford said Sunday that Ontarians should wear a mask every time possible.
When asked why he didn't wear a mask, a spokeswoman for Ford said Jones addressed it in her comments to reporters.
During question period Tuesday, interim NDP Leader Peter Tabuns raised the question of why Ford was unmasked at the legislature.
"Why is the premier not taking leadership and wearing a mask to protect our children?" Tabuns asked.
MPP Paul Calandra responded on Ford's behalf saying the NDP has repeatedly voted against the government's proposals on health care, but not answering the question directly.
"We will continue work hard with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure the health and safety of all the people of the province of Ontario regardless of whether the Leader of the Opposition wants to work with us or not," he said.
'Read a paper,' Liberal interim leader says
Earlier Tuesday, the Ontario Liberals called for masking in schools and on public transit, saying the premier is "afraid to do what's necessary" even as sick children are "filling ERs to the brim".
"The chief medical officer said 'we're monitoring the situation. If they start cancelling surgeries, we'll do something.'
"Read a paper," Fraser said. "They're cancelling surgeries ... Why must we wait again to do what we know is right?"
On Friday, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto announced it would be ramping down surgeries to redeploy staff to those areas.
Ontario's top doctor strongly recommends masking indoors as health system faces 'extraordinary pressures'
As part of his recommendation Monday, Moore said the province's health system is facing "extraordinary pressures" with the ongoing circulation of COVID-19, the earlier than normal rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as influenza.
"What we are facing is a triple threat that requires our collective action and action to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, the very young, the very old and those with underlying medical issues and to ensure that our health-care system remains able to care for Ontarians when they need it," Moore said Monday.
Asked how far the government is willing to go in terms of public health measures, Jones did not directly respond.