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Health experts urge province to reinstate mandatory masking

Posted: May 5, 2022

(May 2, 2022)

By: Durham Radio News

Masks in most public settings in Ontario are no longer required.

However, as transmission of COVID-19 remains high, health experts are asking the province to reinstate mandatory masking.

On Monday, the Ontario Health Coalition held a press conference with health and legal experts.

One of those to speak was Infectious Diseases specialist Dr. Dick Zoutman who says COVID-19 is dominantly an airborne spread disease and people should be wearing proper masks.

“Since Ontario lifted its public health protections on March 21, 2022 we have seen:

  • Increased COVID-19 transmission with enormous impacts to students, teachers and school staff due to record high absenteeism
  • Continuous intense pressure on our hospitals and their beleaguered staff who are getting sick with COVID-19 in droves, making it very hard to provide the hospital services we all depend upon, causing increasing backlogs and waitlists for essential health services and surgeries
  • Worrisome increases in hospitalization of our elderly citizens and a huge number of children getting infected.”

“The simple act of wearing a mask is a cheap and extremely effective way to protect everyone from COVID-19,” said Dr. Zoutman. “Indeed, if we all wore well fitting masks while in in-door public places we could stop COVID-19 in its tracks.”

When asked why masks didn’t work to stop other waves during the pandemic Zoutman explained that many people were using masks that were very ineffective such as cloth masks.

He is asking the proper masks be made mandatory.

Another Infectious Diseases specialist, Dr. David Fisman, also spoke in favour of reinstated masks at the press conference.

“Masks are important for prevention of respiratory disease spread because they both filter infectious virus out of the exhaled breath of infected individuals and they reduce risk by filtering viruses out of inhaled air of a susceptible person (1, 2),” said Dr. Fisman. “Recent work by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrates a remarkable reduction in risk of 83 per cent for people who wear well-fitting N95 and KN95 masks (3).”

Associate Professor of Law at Western University Dr. Jacob Shelley says the 34 local boards of health in province do have the power to implement mask mandates.

So far local boards have health have said it’s up to the province.

“The Reopening Ontario Act granted the province new powers, but it did not take away any of the existing authority or responsibility that a public health board or medical officer of health has,” said Shelley. “The Health Promotion and Protection Act in Ontario grants decision-making authority to these boards and their medical officers.”

He says if the Ontario Government or the Chief Medical Officer of Health don’t take action to reinstate masks the local health boards should.

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