Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health ‘strongly recommends’ that Ontarians wear masks in all indoor public places, including schools and daycares, but refrained from recommending a return to a mask mandate in the province.
At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Kieran Moore said the province’s health care system was facing “extraordinary pressures” with the continued circulation of COVID-19, the earlier than normal rise in the virus. respiratory syncytial (RSV), as well as influenza.
“What we face 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 conditions and to ensure that our health system remains able to support Ontarians when they need it,” Moore said.
Moore said Ontarians need to go back to using all the layers of protection that have proven successful during the pandemic.
“We should all screen for signs of illness daily and stay home when you are sick,” he said.
“I ask Ontarians, especially children six months and older, pregnant women, families and caregivers of young children, health care workers and seniors, and people with health conditions under underlying, to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible, [to] protect themselves and those around them,” Moore added.
Unprecedented increase in sick children
The masking recommendation comes as children’s hospitals across Ontario have faced an unprecedented increase in sick children in recent weeks.
Moore said children between the ages of two and five should only wear a mask under supervision if they can safely tolerate the masking and can put it on and take it off.
Moore has previously said this fall and winter will see a resurgence in respiratory illnesses and that he would recommend masking in some indoor settings if hospitals start canceling surgeries to deal with surges in patients.
“The difficult and complex fall that was predicted has materialized,” Moore said Monday.
“COVID-19, influenza and RSV — all three are actively circulating across Ontario in all of our communities… contributing to pressures on our pediatric health care system.
Medical authorities have also increasingly called on the public to wear masks after the province’s children’s hospitals were overwhelmed with young patients in emergency departments, pediatric wards and intensive care units.
On Friday, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto announced it would reduce surgeries to redeploy staff to those areas.
SickKids chief executive Dr Ronald Cohn said the cancellation of surgeries is a blow to children, their families and healthcare workers.
“It’s heartbreaking for families and children because, you know, the term ‘elective surgery’ doesn’t really exist in children,” Cohn told CBC Toronto, adding that it was about finding the good time to plan and perform the surgery.
“It’s also incredibly morally taxing for all of us as medical professionals, recognizing that we can’t actually do these procedures for children, knowing they need them,” Cohn said.
Dr. Chris Simpson, executive vice-president, medicine, at Ontario Health, also spoke at Monday’s press conference. He said “an unusually high number of children are coming to hospital emergency departments” with one or more viral illnesses, and the total number of those children who need to be admitted is “unusually high”.
Simpson said that as Ontario hospitals prepare for “this triple threat,” they are seeing large numbers of critically ill children and seeing them earlier in the season than expected.
“While this current situation is unlike anything we’ve seen in the pediatric population in recent memory, we have strong systems and structures that have been put in place during the pandemic for our adult community,” Simpson said. .
Meanwhile, speaking at a news conference on Sunday, an unrelated issue, Premier Doug Ford urged members of the public to get their flu shots and be up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. .
“Wear a mask whenever possible,” Ford said.
Ford did not respond to repeated questions Sunday about whether his government would mandate masks in all settings.
“I will follow Dr. Moore’s instructions,” Ford said, a line he repeated several times when pressed on the matter.
Here is the full presentation from the Chief Medical Officer of Health on November 14: