Masking “strongly” recommended to protect children

A student reads a book while wearing a mask. (Photo from Pixabay)

“Our hospital system needs us to protect our children more and more. And it’s not just masking, it’s the layers of protection,” Ontario’s top doctor told reporters as he urged Ontarians to mask up.

While it’s not a masking mandate, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Doctor Kieran Moore is “strongly recommending” Ontarians wear a mask in all indoor public settings, including at schools and childcare centres.

“Ontarians have been brilliant at adhering to all of the recommendations over the last 1,000 days of the pandemic,” said Moore, hoping residents will, once again, act to protect a vulnerable population.

In the past, the elderly and chronically ill were the most vulnerable. Moore said that has changed. Those most at risk of hospitalization now are children under the age of five.

“We need to protect them,” he said. “I’m calling on families in all social settings as we go into a very social time of year to please, please, please be careful around our most vulnerable citizens.”

Over the past weeks, pediatric units across Ontario have filled past capacity with young children suffering from RSV, influenza, and COVID. However, it’s influenza and RSV driving up patient volumes to the point where at least two hospitals have cancelled surgeries and redeployed staff to emergency departments and intensive care units.

Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa has opened a second pediatric intensive care unit. Meanwhile, at Toronto’s Children’s Hospital for Sick Children, patients 14 and over are being transferred to adult intensive care units.

Parents with young children who are showing even mild symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, or RSV are asked to mask at home.

“I’m sorry, but you should,” said Moore. “You should be doing good hand hygiene, cleaning surfaces, masking as best you can to decrease the risk to that child. As a mum, the other thing you can do is bring your child to get immunized against COVID and influenza. That will have a definite benefit.”

Asked why not introduce a masking mandate in schools and childcare centres, Moore admitted, “we are discussing that and reviewing that as a potential.”

In the meantime, Moore pleaded with residents to return to earlier infection control measures.

“You should be screening on a daily basis. Good hand hygiene is going to be exceptionally important with RSV and influenza. It’s a call to vaccinate against influenza and COVID, as there is no vaccine against RSV,” he urged.