Ontario high-school students must wear masks; impractical for elementary kids: Experts

Canada News COVID-19 Recent

TORONTO: High school students in Ontario should wear face masks indoors whenever physical distancing rules cannot be followed, but elementary school students should not be expected to follow the same guidelines, according to updated recommendations from experts across the province.

New back-to-school guidance released by Toronto’s SickKids Hospital on Wednesday calls masking in schools a “complex and nuanced” issue and suggests high school students should practise farther physical distancing than younger students because their transmission risk may be higher.

A group of 36 experts including epidemiologists and pediatricians from across Ontario agreed that, based on current science, the use of non-medical masks is recommended for high school students in situations where they could be closer than two metres apart.

Sixty-one per cent of the experts agreed, with 22 per cent recommending mandatory face masks for high schoolers at all times.

“It is important to try to find periods in the day where NMMs (non-medical masks) can be safely removed,” they wrote in the guidance.

“However, given that there has been considerable disagreement among the authors around this issue, it will be critical to assess the use of masks on an ongoing basis throughout the school year and adjust accordingly based on the development of further evidence, changes and epidemiology.”

For middle school students, 64 per cent agreed that masks should be worn when physical distancing can’t be maintained.

But the same advice doesn’t apply to younger students. Instead, the guidance is in line with a previous recommendation that elementary school students not be required to wear masks at school, calling such advice impractical.

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