/Of masks, decency, and the Tory heel

Of masks, decency, and the Tory heel

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Just wear the mask.

It’s the decent thing to do for the people around you.

Go ahead: Put it on when you venture close to or within a crowd. If not for your own health, do it for the people around you. And, do it for the crowd of overworked nurses and physicians at pretty much every health care facility throughout Ontario.

That’s how it is now: The choices you make in Mississauga, as an example, has bearing on whole shifts of nurses in Toronto or Barrie or Orangeville or at any of the facilities in the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge public health district.

That’s because patients seeking treatment are having to be shipped far afield from the emergency room they entered because of staff shortages due to illness. Procedures elsewhere are being delayed or outright cancelled.

The CEO at SickKids in Toronto this week asked Ontarians to do the right thing and wear a mask. The hospital has had to cancel surgeries to free up post-op intensive care beds. So, many children have been requiring ICU beds and ventilators to treat respiratory illness.

It’s something our own Dr. Nicole Bocking, this region’s medical officer of health, spoke about last week. Coverage is in this edition.

Bocking warned of what she called a Triple Threat that’s overwhelming the province’s health care resources. We’re being slammed with influenza, the latest respiratory goodie offered by COVID-19, and increasing RSV infections.

“The combination of all three is putting significant pressure on Emergency Departments, primary care, walk-in clinics, and in-patient units at hospitals,” Bocking said.

There’s been a dramatic increase that shows a more than doubling of visits to emergency rooms in the region every week.

“The volume this year is higher than previous years,” she said.

Wearing a mask is one simple way to stymie the Triple Threat.

The province’s chief medical officer agrees.

Dr. Kieran Moore supports voluntary use of masks. Why he didn’t enact mandatory masks for the sake of sound public health is a mystery. Perhaps his stopping short had something to do with having to work under a premier who didn’t even heed advice from qualified physicians that made up the now-shuttered scientific advisory table.

I’m not one to sing praise for our premier, but even Doug Ford said in the last few days that people should ensure their COVID-19 vaccinations are topped up, and that they should perhaps throw a flu shot into the mix for good measure. He also spoke about voluntary masking.

And that’s something, I suppose. It’s an acknowledgement by Ford of masks’ effectiveness, even on the heels of a so-called Freedom Convoy of misinformed people who believed mandatory masks for the public good was Machiavellian. 

An aside: What’s Machiavellian is Bill 124, the provincial legislation that limits wage increases to some public workers, among them the overworked nurses struggling to stretch their dimes in the face of staggering inflation and dire economics.

But we do what we can when we can.

And one of the best things we can do to help the cause is to wear a simple mask. It isn’t an imposition. It’s not an infringement on personal freedom. It’s basic decency is what it is.