Ontario’s top doctor strongly recommends people wear masks indoors as hospitals face extraordinary pressure


Published November 14, 2022 at 10:21 am

dr kieran moore

Ontario’s top doctor is not bringing back mask mandates yet but is strongly recommending people wear face coverings in indoor settings — even when at home with family members.

The province is facing a “triple threat” of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rising influenza cases, and the most vulnerable are at risk, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said in a press conference today (Nov. 14).

Moore said it’s children five years old and under who are at the biggest risk and Ontario residents need to get back to all the layers of protection  — masking indoors, getting vaccinated, hand washing and cleaning surfaces at home.

“I’m strongly recommending that all Ontarians, not just those at high risk, wear a mask in indoor public settings, especially around our most vulnerable Ontarians — the very young and the very old,” Moore said. “It is our youngest children, those under five, who are especially vulnerable to severe outcomes from RSV, and COVID and influenza and we need to ensure that we take all the necessary steps to keep them safe.”

But he stopped short of going back to a mask mandate even as hospitals face increased pressure.

“I honestly think mask mandates would be the furthest we’d have to go,” he said.

But he didn’t rule out the possibility for the future.

“If we had to mask up, we would do it based on the best evidence. And we would follow it through clearly as we go into the most social time of year going indoors. I’m very concerned that the risk is going to go up for our children. And we’ll be monitoring that situation very closely,” Moore said.

Masking in indoor settings such as a mall would help reduce community spread but Moore suggested people wear masks in social settings and at home where the mandates haven’t worked in the past. He suggested people wear a mask at home if they have symptoms.

“We really need to focus where we can protect our children who are the ones, under five, getting admitted to hospitals as we speak,” he said.

While COVID-19 is still circulating, RSV and influenza cases are filling Ontario hospitals to capacity right now. Last week, Trillium Health Partners confirmed children who require inpatient care at Mississauga Hospital are being sent to Credit Valley Hospital due to staffing challenges.

“We’re currently experiencing extraordinary pressure in our pediatric system,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, executive vice-president (medical) at Ontario Health at the press conference. “We’re facing a triple threat of three viruses COVID respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, and influenza all at the same time. Unusually high numbers of children are coming into hospital emergency departments for one or more of these viral illnesses.”

Simpson added this is “is unlike anything we’ve seen in the pediatric population” but there are strong systems and structures in place.

“All hospitals and their emergency departments have implemented surge plans to increase bed capacity, and refocus resources to deal with the influx of pediatric patients,” he said.

He added that parents shouldn’t hesitate to take their children to the emergency department if needed.

The recommendations come after Ontario doctors raised the alarm over record patient volumes across Ontario in recent months, and that’s only expected to get worse due to a “triple threat” including COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rising influenza cases.

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