As COVID-19 cases rise in conjunction with the arrival of influenza and a surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the province's decision not to impose a mask mandate has healthcare providers worried about what is to come this holiday season.
Dubbed the 'triple threat' of viruses, COVID-19, influenza and RSV are putting extra pressure on the province's healthcare system.
"Influenza is back with a vengeance," said Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County and District Health Unit, on Wake Up with Rob Snow on Nov. 17. "And the latest is the number of children coming in with RSV. That's what's tying CHEO up in knots. They're over capacity."
Given the current pressure on the healthcare system, Dr. Cushman was disappointed the province's chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore did not suggest imposing a mask mandate during a Monday press conference. Instead, the province stopped short of a mandate, "strongly recommending" masks in indoor public settings, despite urgent calls from healthcare professionals for a return to masking.
"A mandate for masking for two or three weeks and then reassess would have been quite helpful," said Cushman. "It's a minor inconvenience, and it does work."
Getting vaccinated will also relieve some of the pressure. While hospitals are expecting a rough flu season, this years flu vaccine is very effective, according to Cushman.
"I'm beating the drums and cheer leading to tell people it's so important that they get a flu vaccine, and that they also get the next eligible COVID vaccine," said Dr. Cushman.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends the flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and over. Flu and COVID vaccines are available at participating pharmacies and health care providers.
Listen to the full interview with Dr. Robert Cushman below: