Despite the province’s decision to abolish the remaining regulations in public transit and many health-care settings, certain Toronto hospitals will maintain their masking practices.
University Health Network (UHN) will continue to insist that everyone in its facilities wear a mask, citing the fact that it cares for immune-compromised patients as a reason for doing so.
The remaining mask mandates in high-risk areas, with the exception of those in long-term care and retirement homes, will not be extended, according to Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
“With a high level of immunization rates and Ontario’s COVID-19 situation continuing to improve, most of the province’s remaining provincial masking requirements, including on public transit, will expire as of 12:00 a.m. on June 11, 2022,” Moore said in a statement.
Moore noted that current directives on masking in hospitals and other health-care settings will be revoked on Saturday and will be replaced with ministry guidance on when masks should be worn.
In shelters and group homes, masks will also no longer be required but recommended.
Most of the masking requirements in the province were lifted in March, with the exception of those in high-risk settings. They were set to expire in April but were extended amid the sixth wave of the pandemic.
“While masking requirements are expiring, organizations may implement their own policies. Ontarians should continue to wear a mask if they feel it is right for them, are at high risk for severe illness, recovering from COVID-19, have symptoms of the virus or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19,” Moore said.
UHN President Kevin Smith told CP24 that their decision to keep masking in place was a “no brainer.”
“I think Dr. Moore, looking at all the evidence and where we’re at with COVID, thankfully, feels that we’re now at a point where we can drop that masking mandate, which is terrific news, good progress, but we’re not out of the woods for particularly vulnerable populations,” Smith said.
“And University Health Network very carefully considered that as we thought about how we best protect our patients, but also protect are very vulnerable and absolutely necessary staff.”
The Hospital for Sick Children also confirmed to CP24 that they will also keep its masking policy.
“SickKids has a uniquely vulnerable patient population as not all of our patients are eligible for vaccination, and many are immunocompromised, which puts them at higher risk for severe outcomes due to COVID-19 than children in the community. For those reasons, we continue to take a cautious approach with our safety measures and we will continue to require universal masking past June 11,” the hospital said in a statement.
Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital, Women’s College Hospital, and Mackenzie Health hospitals have also said that its mask requirements will remain in place.
Palliative care physician Dr. Amit Arya said he is happy to see that some hospitals will continue mandating masks as he is worried that the province’s decision to end the requirements could lead to outbreaks.
“I’m pleased to see that individual hospitals and I wanted to say very likely my own hospital will be mandating masks. And I think that will happen for many hospitals. I’m very worried about smaller rural hospitals, which may not have the legal or administrative capacity to enact a decision like this and may feel very troubled,” Arya told CP24.
“And I’m also very worried that we may be challenged as frontline health workers, by patients or family members who are anti-maskers and don’t understand the vital importance of still continuing masking in hospital settings.”
Speaking to CP24 earlier Wednesday, UHN infectious diseases specialist Dr. Adbu Sharkawy said masking should still be mandated, especially in indoor settings frequented by individuals vulnerable to COVID-19.
He added that he will continue to wear a mask indoors for the foreseeable future to protect himself and others, especially those who are vulnerable and whose immunity may have waned.
“I think that wearing a mask indoors is still a very important way to prevent not only the spread of COVID 19, but a lot of respiratory viruses,” Sharkawy said. “So, personally, I would prefer to maintain a masking policy in indoor settings, especially settings in which susceptible individuals may have to frequent, and that may include health-care environments, obviously, pharmacies and supermarkets and things of that nature. I understand not everybody agrees with me.”
The CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said the province’s decision on mask mandates was wrong and uncalled for.
“There is absolutely no need to do that. Patients don’t go to hospitals like to a shopping mall. In fact, we want it, as you know, to maintain masking in all indoor closed places because COVID is not gone,” Doris Grinspun said
“I would ask patients, first of all, to applaud the hospitals that are keeping the masking on and I would say to patients that are going to places that the mask is not on — even to an optometrist, even to dentists — to please ask your healthcare professional to put the mask on because you need to be protected and it is our duty to protect you.
On Wednesday, Ontario reported its lowest positivity rate in six months. According to the province, there are 522 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, 200 less from this time a week ago. Of those in hospital, 114 are in intensive care, down from 127 a week ago.
Source_ The Canadian Press