No masking mandate in C-K, for now

The province is encouraging – but not mandating – indoor masking, and Chatham-Kent is following suit.

Medical officer of health Dr. David Colby announced last week he has no plans of bringing a mandate back and will instead heed the advice of Ontario's chief medical officer of health who is "strongly recommending" Ontario residents wear masks in all indoor settings.

Dr. Kieran Moore made the comments at a media conference Nov. 14, saying the health system is facing "extraordinary pressures" as COVID-19 continues to circulate and the earlier than normal rise of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.

Moore called the trio of illnesses a "triple threat" to the population, noting "collective action" is needed to protect the most vulnerable.

Colby said that wearing a mask works better at containing disease than they do protecting the wearer.

"That means masking works best when everyone is wearing them," Colby said.

Noting that there is a "very high burden of respiratory diseases" locally and throughout the province, Chatham-Kent Public Health is keeping a close eye on mortality data and hospital crowding. As well, Colby said other health-care protections need to be at the forefront.

"We must not forget the other public health measures such as vaccination (COVID-19 and influenza,)" he said.

Avoiding indoor crowding, social distancing in indoor public areas, proper and frequent hygiene and daily screening for respiratory symptoms are tools to stop the spread. Individuals that are not feeling well are advised to stay home.

But even though Ontario hasn't imposed a province-wide mandate, one neighbouring municipality has put a mandate in place. Essex County is now requiring masks to be worn indoors at all of its facilities.

The province's lack of enforcement on masking has been soundly criticized by many leading physicians in Ontario as respiratory disease is clogging pediatric hospitals, delaying critical surgeries and treatments.

COVID-19 claimed another life in Chatham-Kent in the past week, bringing the total number of deaths to 91.

There was one new outbreak.

The COVID-19 positivity rate is 15.8 per cent in the municipality as compared to the provincial rate of 12.2 per cent.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice