December 10, 2023

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COVID-19: 3 Health units ask Ontario’s top doctor to reinstate temporary provincewide mask mandate

Three medical officers of health in Ontario are seeking a temporary provincewide mask mandate to help curb the transmission of COVID-19 amid the sixth wave of the pandemic.

In a joint letter to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officers of health from Peterborough Public Health (Dr. Thomas Piggott), Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services (Dr. M. Mustafa Hirji) and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, acting MOH), expressed concerns with the high number of cases and have requested a temporary return of a provincewide mask mandate.

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“COVID-19 risk continues, and masking remains a key strategy to protect yourself and others,” Piggott said. “I strongly recommend continuing to wear your mask, and with colleagues am asking the Chief Medical Officer of Health to consider broadening the temporary mask requirement to protect our communities.”

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The mask mandate for high-risk settings was set to expire on April 27, but the province extended it until June 11. The province of Quebec is set to lift its indoor mask mandate on May 14.

The doctors’ entire letter can be found online at Letter to Chief Medical Officer of Health.

In their correspondence, the medical officers of health commended previous actions to tackle the pandemic and request mask requirements for indoor public spaces such as workplaces, schools, post-secondary institutions and essential service settings such as grocery stories and pharmacies.

“To be fully effective and clear in communication to Ontarians we believe this is needed at a provincial, not a local level. Like you, we had hoped that as masking and other protections ceased to be requirements, that we would be able to get through this wave without much suffering or long-term disruption. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have played out as we had hoped.”

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Ontario’s mask mandate extension in high risk settings being met with mixed reactions

In specific examples, Piggott noted hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the Peterborough region is exceeding any previous wave. There were a record 40 hospitalized cases in late April which have dropped to 25 as of Wednesday.

Hirji noted over the past three weeks, hospitalizations in the Niagara region have remained equivalent to the peaks of wave two and three, “requiring our main hospital system to ramp down surgeries to 70 per cent.”

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“On Monday this week, our overstretched hospital systems had 100 patients admitted, but without a bed,” the letter notes.

The physicians say the return of masking could “help protect those with inequities and vulnerabilities, relieve the pressures on our hospitals, and most importantly protect the health of the people we serve.”

More to come

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