Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to debate mandatory masking

The first item on the agenda for the newly elected Ottawa-Carleton District School Board will be whether to reinstate mandatory masking in schools.

Newly elected trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth says she will move a motion shortly after the new board is sworn in tonight calling for an emergency board meeting to debate requiring students, teachers and staff to wear masks in elementary and secondary school.

“It should have been the province mandating masks in all essential settings; they didn’t do it, they shirked their responsibilities,” Dr. Kaplan-Myrth told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

“As board trustees, we can say that we 100 per cent want to do everything we can to support teachers, all educators, all children to ensure their health and their safety, it is our responsibility.”

On Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he is “strongly recommending” Ontarians wear a mask in all indoor spaces as the province sees a rise in COVID-19, influenza and RSV cases.

CHEO is cancelling some non-urgent surgeries, redeploying staff and opened a second pediatric intensive care unit to help deal with a surge of patients with viral respiratory infections. The children’s hospital is asking people to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, including schools, and stay home when you’re sick.

“In every field, in every work space we have so many people who are sick, and they’re sick with COVID, and they’re sick with influenza, and the youngest are ending up in the ICU because of both influenza and COVID, as well as RSV, and it’s not okay,” Dr. Kaplan-Myrth said.

Ottawa Public Health said last week that it would support any organization and institution that introduces a mask mandate this fall.

“Ottawa Public Health is strongly recommending mask use in all indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings to help limit transmission, protect the capacity of pediatric care, and reduce risks for severe illness requiring hospitalization,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

“OPH also fully supports any business, workplace or organization taking steps that encourage and welcome mask wearing. 

“Wearing masks indoors and outdoors in crowded spaces, staying up to date on vaccines, staying home when sick and washing your hands are all behaviours that will help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses.”

“This isn’t about politics, there’s no controversy here; the fact of the matter is masks reduce transmission of COVID, they have helped also reduce influenza and RSV,” Kaplan-Myrth said.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board will meet for the first time this evening since the Oct. 22 municipal election. Kaplan-Myrth says a notice of motion has been tabled so trustees can call an emergency meeting.

Seven of the 12 OCDSB trustees are new and this will be their first meeting. Kaplan-Myrth is hoping the board will pass the motion, and an emergency meeting to discuss reintroducing mask mandates in schools will be held soon.

“The idea here is to make this happen as quickly as possible because we need masks now. It’s not the sort of situation where we can debate this for the next few weeks; not while children are dying, not while children are being admitted to hospital for reasons that could have been prevented,” the family physician said.

Ottawa’s public school board passed a motion last spring to require masking in schools after the Ontario government lifted the mask mandates on March 21.

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