Bring back mask mandates in Ontario
Bring back mask mandates in Ontario
Why this petition matters
Since mask mandates were dropped by the Chief Medical Officer of Health in March 2022, Ontario has seen mask-wearing drop from 70% to 10% (IHME). Since that time Ontario has seen sustained high levels of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, with all trends higher than 2021.
The masking drop-off after mandates were removed in March shows how important these mandates were. Recommendations and encouragement do little compared to mandates that make it possible for businesses and schools to require masks with the public's understanding.
Infections levels compared to pre-Omicron years are much higher. Infections are currently running above 40,000 per day, 15 times higher than the same day last year.
Covid hospitalizations remain consistently above the average of 2020-21. The level right now is above the wave peaks in the Spring and Summer. This puts additional high pressure on healthcare workers including nurses, with many units already short-staffed.
A comparison of key health metrics compared to last year shows how poorly Ontario is doing without public health mitigations like mask mandates. The last 30 days have seen 434 deaths compared to 127 last year. There are so many infections now that they overwhelm the fact that Omicron is often milder. Hospitalizations are almost 8 times higher than a year ago. This is unsustainable. The solution starts with preventing more infections and that can start with mask mandates.
The original plan was for individuals to manage their own risk but since Omicron is airborne and highly contagious and the science on masking tells us that masks work best when worn by everybody, the impact has been disproportionately felt by vulnerable groups like seniors who have a much higher risk of death. Seniors currently have the highest test positivity rate in Ontario and also have the highest severe outcome risk. That will translate into more deaths.
We know that vaccine boosters are recommended to protect the population but that protection is not as high as last year because Omicron variants are much more evasive and doses will wane over time. Many Ontarians have also fallen behind on their booster shots. Ontario cannot rely on vaccinations alone. The results this year show that vaccines need to be combined with higher levels of masking.
Besides a record year for deaths, untracked impacts of high infection levels are harming the health of Ontarians. Long Covid, or "Post-Acute Sequelae of Covid-19" is prevalent in numbers that impacts the population, the health care system, and the economy. The UK has advanced tracking of Long Covid, ONS is now reporting that 2.1 million people (3.3% of the population) are experiencing self-reported symptoms. Half of these report symptoms after one year. The US Brookings Institute is reporting 2-4 million out of work due to Long Covid.
Finally, and not least, the lack of mask mandates in schools where they have been shown to work here, here, and here for example, has left more children sick from respiratory viruses such as RSV and the Flu. Hospitals are being stressed with the incoming sick and drug stores are running low on child medications.
The chart below was last week. Ontario has now exceeded pediatric ICU capacity with 122 patients. The CEO of the Hospital for Sick Children is asking for a return of mask mandates to deal with this crisis.
We know that:
1) masks work and better masks work better
2) dropping Ontario mask mandates reduced mask wearing dramatically
3) dropping Ontario mask mandates contributed to Ontario's BA.2 wave, according to Public Health Ontario.
4) scientific research by CIDRAP shows that masks at the source and the receiver reduce risk compared to solo wearing
5) while hard to measure in the real world, mask mandates have made a difference
6) masks can reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, not just covid
Ontario has a difficult winter ahead, something the CMOH, hospital administrators, doctors, and experts have agreed on. The University of Waterloo has just reversed its decision and returned to a mask mandate.
We are already in crisis with RSV and Flu surging early
Mandates will reduce the burden on hospitals, on seniors who are dying in numbers every day, on families and children, and even on our economy.
I have heard from many Ontarians, both vulnerable and healthy, concerned on how they can protect themselves this winter from infection and illness when so many around them are maskless in high risk indoor public settings like grocery stores, transit, pharmacies, and schools.
Please sign this petition today! Urgent action is needed to protect our province.