Statement by Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca on Masks in Schools

TORONTO – Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, issued the following statement:

“Almost two years ago to the day, on the eve of March Break, our borders closing and a province-wide lockdown, Doug Ford told families: “go away, have a good time, enjoy yourself.” However well-meaning, it was reckless advice that likely contributed to the early spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

Doug Ford was back at it today, none the wiser after two years of economic hurt and incalculable human loss. He just doesn’t learn from his mistakes.

Today, despite the clear and unequivocal advice of the province’s science table, and against the direct advice of the experts at SickKids, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences, and McMaster Children’s Hospital, Doug Ford decided to remove all mask requirements in schools.

He’s got it wrong again. I side with Ontario’s top children’s health experts who urged Doug Ford that “now is not the time” to lift the masking requirements in schools saying clearly:

“Given Ontario’s reopening and March Break, it makes sense to wait at least two weeks after the end of the break to review those indicators and make a decision for Ontario schools.”

Let me tell you why this matters a father of two school age girls, and as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party:

  • Today in Ontario, just 29.4 per cent of 5-11 year old’s are fully vaccinated. No child under age 5 has received even a single dose.

  • On Monday – 14 per cent of Ontario students were absent from school. That is almost one out of every seven kids missing school, many of them because they either had COVID or feared they had COVID.

  • Despite reducing our testing capacity to the lowest point since the first wave impacting our collective ability to assess risk, overall case counts and test positivity rates have not fallen over the last two weeks and positivity remains above 10 per cent.

So, while I accept the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s advice that Ontario should end mandatory mask restrictions outside of higher-risk, essential public services and areas later this month, I am drawing a line in the sand on our schools.

I simply do not accept the argument that our kids’ schools are not higher-risk areas and essential, and the experts agree. We must wait a couple more weeks to make sure our kids will be safe.

I also worry that Ford’s Conservatives’ continuing failures on PCR testing, rapid antigen tests and paid sick days will also put our kids, seniors and the immunocompromised at unnecessary risk.

We all want our lives and our kids’ schools to return to normal, but hope isn’t a plan. Doug Ford shouldn’t gamble with their safety.

Doug Ford has jerked our families around for the last time.

Hope is on the way. Ontario Liberals have a plan and will make the necessary investments to make sure our kids’ classrooms are safe and ready for next September.

Doug Ford deserves to be defeated so we can put that plan in place.”

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