Letter to Ottawa Public Health and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit

July 17, 2020

Dear Drs Etches and Roumeliotis,

We are a group of 19 family physicians at the Clarence-Rockland Family Health Team. We are writing to you to urge you to implement a mandatory mask policy for pupils and personnel in schools. While Premier Ford has indicated that individual school boards are responsible for this decision, school boards, in turn, have been taking their direction from their public health units.

The Ottawa and Eastern Ontario public health units have already implemented mandatory masking for enclosed public spaces, including for most children over the age of 2. The extension of this policy into the classroom would be consistent with this mandate.

While we support and understand your preference for return to full-time education for children in the fall, we feel that a layered approach to public health measures is prudent. If class sizes can’t be made smaller, physical distancing will be impossible. Relying on hand-washing and decontamination of toys and surfaces alone does not make sense given that we know that COVID-19 is spread primarily by airborne droplets, and that fomites are only a small part of transmission.

Many countries have successfully educated their pupils and implemented mandatory masking in schools. One only need look to Asia to see their successful introduction. In Israel, where they lifted their mask requirement because of a heat wave, they had subsequent and significant spread of the virus, and are now struggling to contain it. And while some countries have had few problems bringing children back into classrooms, many have done so with physical distancing measures that may not be possible with a full-time return, thus emphasizing the need for masks.

We propose that mandatory masking would also lead to less inequity. Masking would signal that effective measures are being taken and encourage more participation in classroom learning. Additionally, universal masking would avoid stigmatization of vulnerable staff and students who want to remain safer, and would allow for their integration into the classroom.

We appreciate all the hard work that you and the public health units have done to keep us safe. As you continue to dialogue with school boards in preparation for the fall, we implore you to extend your mandatory mask policy to include schools.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Josée Adam, MD CCFP

Dr. Lyndsay Berardi, MD CCFP

Dr. Mélanie Bissonnette, MD CCFP

Dr. Sylvie Brulé, MD CCFP

Dr. Sydnee Burgess, MD CCFP

Dr. Shoshanah Deaton, MD CCFP

Dr. Mychèle Deneault, MD CCFP

Dr. Marie-Josée Deslauriers, MD CCFP

Dr. Gaëlle Bekolo Evina, MD CCFP

Dr. Pierre Lanoix, MD CCFP

Dr. Yves Lefebvre, MD CCFP

Dr. Geneviève Leroux, MD CCFP

Dr. Martine McKay, MD, CCFP

Dr. Annelise Miller, MD CCFP

Dr. Steve Pelletier, MD MBA CCFP

Dr. Marc-Antoine Roy, MD CCFP

Dr. Pierre Soucie, MD CCFP

Dr. Tomy Thomas, MBBS CCFP

Dr. Mylène Vachet, MD CCFP