PETERBOROUGH- Dr. Thomas Piggott from Peterborough Public Health has united with two other Ontario public health agencies to send a letter to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health sharing concern with what they call continued high disease activity, for a temporary province-wide masking mandate to bring down sixth wave transmission.
Dr. Piggott said: “COVID-19 risk continues, and masking remains a key strategy to protect yourself and others. I strongly recommend continuing to wear your mask, and with colleagues am asking the Chief Medical Officer of Health to consider broadening the temporary mask requirement to protect our communities.”
The other signatories to the letter include:
- M. Mustafa Hirji, Medical Officer of Health & Commissioner (Acting), Niagara Region Public Health & Emergency Services
- Shanker Nesathurai, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
In a letter sent to Dr Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontario, the trio appears to be calling for mandatory use of N-95 masks.
“Masks can help mitigate this suffering and exacerbation of health inequities. The US CDC has reported masking, with an N95 or equivalent, may provide protection to an 83% reduction in odds of infection. This provides similar reduction in infection to what vaccines had pre-Omicron. Furthermore, evidence synthesized by PHO has identified no evidence of harms with masking. We believe this evidence should receive consideration.” said the letter which was signed by all three.
The current guidelines from the CDC do not recommend these masks for children. According to the current mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, N95 masks have not been widely tested on kids.
“Although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in workplaces, and therefore have not been tested for broad use in children.” says the CDC.
A study published in the National Library of medicine found the use of N95 masks in children can be harmful.
“The use of an N95 mask could potentially cause breathing difficulties in children if the mask does not have an exhalation valve, particularly during a physical activity. We believe that wearing a surgical mask may be more appropriate for children.”
Read more here:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34043996/
The three doctors point to the level of COVID-19 detected in wastewater as well as hospital capacity necessitating the return of masking.
“The Ontario Science Table has reported persistently high amounts of COVID-19 in the wastewater, as a key marker of transmission. Consistent with this, in each of our respective health units, we continue to see significant impacts that are not relenting. In Peterborough Public Health region, we see hospitalizations of persons with COVID-19 recently exceeding any previous wave. In Niagara, for the past 3 weeks, hospitalizations have remained equivalent to the peaks of wave two and three, requiring our main hospital system to ramp down surgeries to 70%. On Monday this week, our overstretched hospital systems had 100 patients admitted, but without a bed.”
It’s unclear how many of the hospitalizations are due to COVID or with COVID.
The trio says the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the individuals and communities with the worst social determinants of health. The current persistently high transmission of COVID-19 is exacerbating inequalities in our society according to the letter.
“Masks can help mitigate this suffering and exacerbation of health inequities. The US CDC has reported masking, with an N95 or equivalent, may provide protection to an 83% reduction in odds of infection. This provides similar reduction in infection to what vaccines had pre-Omicron. Furthermore, evidence synthesized by PHO has identified no evidence of harms with masking. We believe this evidence should receive consideration. The return of masking could help protect those with inequities and vulnerabilities, relieve the pressures on our hospitals, and most importantly protect the health of the people we serve.” said the letter.
There’s no mention of how mask mandates could impact children and others with hearing loss or speech impediments.
The National Deaf Children’s Society in the UK says communication for virtually all deaf children and young people, including those who use sign language, relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly – whether this is for lip-reading, understanding facial expressions or for understanding non-verbal communication more widely (e.g. seeing whether someone is smiling or looks upset).
“Face masks and coverings can have the effect of obscuring speech, making it harder for deaf children and young people to make use of any residual hearing they have. They therefore present specific challenges for deaf children and young people.”