3 Ontario health units call for expanded masking to help with rising COVID cases

Top doctors in Niagara Region, Windsor-Essex County and Peterborough are asking the province to reinstate mask mandates in more indoor public spaces. Mark McAllister asks why, and finds out if Toronto would do the same.

The medical officers of health in Peterborough, Niagara and Windsor-Essex are calling for a temporary province-wide masking mandate to bring down sixth-wave COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Thomas Piggott of Peterborough Public Health, Dr. M. Mustafa Hirji of Niagara Region Public Health, and Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the acting medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit sent a joint letter to Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, asking that he require masking in workplaces, schools, college and universities, and essential service settings such as grocery stores.

The three medical officials say this directive is needed at a provincial, not local level.

“Like you, we had hoped that as masking and other protections ceased to be requirements, we would be able to get through this wave without much suffering or long-term disruption,” reads the letter to Dr. Moore. “Unfortunately, this does not seem to have played out as we had hoped.”

RELATED: Ontario reports 32 COVID-19 deaths Thursday as ICU admissions surpass 200

Ontario’s remaining mask mandate for long-term care, hospitals, and public transit was extended last month to June 11 amid a rise in sixth-wave COVID-19 infections.

While Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said last month that said the sixth wave of COVID-19 had likely plateaued or started to decline, they did express “significant uncertainty” around the impact of case growth on the provincial health system and deaths.

In his letter to Dr. Moore, Dr. Piggott points out that COVID-19 hospitalizations “recently exceeded any previous wave” while in Niagara Region, hospitalizations have been equivalent to wave two and three peaks which have forced them to cancel 70 per cent of surgeries.

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

The doctors also point out that 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.”

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