WECHU has no plans of issuing mask mandate at local schools, but urges province to act

·2 min read
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will not order schools to implement mask-wearing, but continues to urge the province to update its guidelines as cases rise.  (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will not order schools to implement mask-wearing, but continues to urge the province to update its guidelines as cases rise. (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)

Local COVID-19 indicators continued to show a rise in viral activity in Windsor-Essex according to the health unit's latest data, while public health officials continue to urge the province to take measures against the spread of the disease.

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai said he remains hopeful the province will mandate more public health measures, like masking, as case counts, wastewater data and hospitalizations climb across the province.

However, the doctor said at this time he will not exercise his powers to issue a Section 22 order ordering mask-wearing at local schools or indoor settings.

"I remain hopeful that the province will bring forth province-wide direction related to wearing masks indoors including in schools and other places where people might congregate," Nesathurai said during the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's (WECHU) Thursday media briefing.

On Tuesday night, the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) voted in favour of sending a letter to Ontario's education minister, the chief medical officer of health and the local acting medical officer of health, calling for them to consider reinstating public health measures.

GECDSB chairperson Alicia Higgison said that Ontario's education ministry has told the boards they cannot implement a return to the mask mandate — something Nesathurai said last week that local school boards should consider.

For the last few weeks, Nesathurai said he has called on the province to act.

"We have asked the province publicly to bring forth, on a time-limited basis, a masking mandate or a masking direction," the doctor said today, adding that medical officers of health in the Niagara and Peterbourough regions have asked for the same thing.

"I think it's best at this point a time that the province bring forth a direction on this matter."

Wasterwater data shows spike in activity

In its weekly epidemiological report, WECHU showed that local COVID-19 indicators have been on the rise.

Wastewater data in particular has show an increased of the virus in the community.

"Our viral signals are at the highest levels we've seen since we started to monitor [wastewater data]," said Ramsey D'Souza, manager of the epidemiology team with WECHU.

Local hospitalizations have remained consistent, as have the number of people dying in the community due to COVID-19. High-risk case rates have climbed. Those cases are among confirmed tests, and currently only certain groups are eligible for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in Ontario, though the province recently expanded eligibility to include more groups.

Officials say they will continue to monitor the burden of disease in the community, especially following the Easter long-weekend when many people may have been together for celebrations.

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