Ontario Premier Doug Ford urges masking, stops short of imposing mandate

TORONTO — As pediatric hospitals across Ontario deal with an unprecedented surge of very sick children, Premier Doug Ford asked residents to mask up on Sunday but stopped short of mandating the practice.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to make an announcement on Monday where he will recommend the public don masks regularly.

At a rare Sunday news conference on an unrelated issue, the premier laid the groundwork for the top doctor’s message.

“Wear a mask every time possible,” Ford said while speaking at a gas station in west Toronto.

He also urged members of the public to get their flu shots and be up to date on the COVID-19 vaccinations.

Two government sources have told The Canadian Press Moore will not announce a mask mandate on Monday, but will just issue a plea to wear masks.

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Ford did not answer repeated questions Sunday about mandating masks in any settings.

“I’m going to follow Dr. Moore’s direction,” Ford said, a line he repeated several times when pressed on the issue.

Ford said he spoke to seven unnamed hospital CEOs on Friday.

“No one told me they wanted mandatory masking,” he said.

“I have confidence in the system and, yes, there will be bumps in the road and we’re working on solutions every single day.”

Read more: Top Ontario doctor to ask public to mask up as respiratory illnesses rage: sources

Health-care officials have increasingly been calling for the province to implement a mask mandate.

On Saturday, Hospital for Sick Children CEO Dr. Ronald Cohn said he would welcome universal masking.

“There’s no question that would help,” he said.

SickKids hospital will begin cancelling non-urgent surgeries on Monday as it redeploys staff to deal with a flood of very sick children in the emergency department, the pediatric wards and in intensive care.

The hospital is well over capacity and seeing children at “historic levels,” Cohn said.

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CHEO, a children’s hospital in Ottawa, has opened a second pediatric ICU to deal with the surge. Children’s hospitals in Hamilton and London, Ont., are also seeing high volume.

The province’s pediatric ICUs were operating over capacity last week. There were 122 children in intensive care across the province on Wednesday, 10 more than the maximum the system is equipped to handle.

Ontario Health, the agency that oversees the province’s health-care system, recently directed the province’s general hospitals to accept children 14 and older who need critical care and to also accept children who no longer need to be in the ICU, but aren’t well enough yet to go home.

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

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