Ontario’s top doctor will recommend the public begin masking on Monday in an effort to help overwhelmed children’s hospitals, two government sources said Saturday.
There will be no mask mandate, just a general recommendation to wear masks, especially in crowded situations, said the sources, who are speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the process publicly.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has previously said this fall and winter would see a resurgence of respiratory illnesses and he would recommend masking in certain indoor settings if hospitals began cancelling surgeries to deal with a surge of patients.
Meanwhile, medical officials are increasingly calling for the public to mask up.
Children’s hospitals across the province are already overwhelmed with young patients flooding emergency departments, pediatric wards and intensive care units.
The chief executive of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto wants Ontarians to do three things: wear masks, get vaccinated for the flu and for COVID-19 and stay away from work, family and friends when sick.
“I would definitely encourage universal masking right now, there’s no question that would help,” said Dr. Ronald Cohn.
The hospital announced Friday it would be ramping down surgeries to redeploy staff to those areas, Cohn added.
“It is extremely busy and although I recognize that words like crisis and historic and even unprecedented have gone from signal to noise over the last two and a half years, we are seeing historic volumes of children in our emergency room, on our regular pediatric wards and in our ICUs,” Cohn said in an interview.
The children who are coming in are very sick, he said, noting 38 kids in the hospital’s ICU are currently on a ventilator.
“So far none have died, thank God,” Cohn said.
But the cancellation of surgeries is a big blow to children, their families and health-care workers.
“We had to significantly reduce all of the scheduled surgeries that are not life saving or very urgent in order to create the capacity for the children who either need these very urgent life saving procedures or need other life saving admissions to the ICU and to the pediatric wards,” he said. “This is devastating for families who have been waiting already for so long. But it’s important for people to know how incredibly morally distressing this is for all of us, too, as health-care professionals.”
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa has opened a second pediatric ICU and had to cancel surgeries to redeploy health-care workers to staff the new space.
The Ontario Hospital Association is also asking Ontario residents to wear masks indoors and to get up-to-date vaccinations for COVID-19 and influenza.