OPINION: Masks should continue to be recommended, not mandated

Nov 18, 2022 | Opinion

Canadians are heading into familiar territory regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases are rising alongside influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which is causing strain on the healthcare system. Children in particular are mostly falling prey to the new wave and have been filling up hospital and ICU beds.

With this come calls to bring back masking, and maybe soon, for upgraded restrictions to “flatten the curve” by critics of the Ford government.

Last week, an advisor to Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, recommended that she use her powers to reinstate a mask mandate in all Toronto schools.

So far, there hasn’t been an official update on that yet.

At a joint media conference on Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory and De Villa encouraged everyone to stay up to date with their vaccinations, especially regarding flu shots if they hadn’t done so already.

That same day, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, strongly recommended that all Ontarians mask themselves in indoor public settings and stay up to date on vaccinations.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also made the same plea days before Moore’s press conference. Ford stopped short of saying whether mandatory masking would return.

However, on Tuesday, he was met with criticism and rebuked by opposition MPPs at Queen’s Park for not wearing a mask and being a hypocrite for not following Dr. Moore’s advice.

Most Progressive Conservative MPPs also weren’t wearing masks during Question Period, except for a small minority like Ontario’s Health Minister Sylvia Jones.

According to a research poll conducted by Nanos and CTV between Oct. 30 and Nov. 4, more than seven in 10 Canadians support a return to mandatory wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces. The survey indicated 52 per cent support a return, 17 per cent somewhat support, eight per cent somewhat oppose, 22 per cent oppose, and one per cent are unsure.

I believe masks can save lives and are protective against viruses, not just COVID-19. As someone who experiences allergies whenever there’s a change of weather conditions, I’ve always continued to wear my mask in enclosed spaces like public transit since the mandate expired in most places in March and on public transit in June.

Nevertheless, I don’t think mask mandates should be reinstated.

Leave it to individuals to decide when and where they will wear a mask. And while we’re going through another wave of COVID-19, the government and health experts should continue to recommend it. By enforcing a mandate, it is not learning to live with the decision to “learn to live with COVID.”

A mask mandate would anger and frustrate people who are already tired of pandemic restrictions and have moved on. I feel pandemic fatigue and would appreciate it if we can make our own choices and plans to keep ourselves protected.

Extremists will use it as a playbook to restart more pathetic and reckless anti-pandemic protests like “Freedom Convoy 2.0,” which will create a major safety problem for all others. I don’t want to see our beautiful landmarks, government buildings, businesses and tourist attractions vandalized.

Ontarians should be smart enough to understand that if they’re feeling unwell, they should stay home no matter what. If it’s an emergency, there are alternatives to going out sick, please consult those.