Close-up thermometer. Mother measuring temperature of her ill kid. Sick child with high fever laying in bed and mother holding thermometer. Hand on forehead.

This Version Posted: January 19, 2023

Medical Officer of Health Strongly Recommends Masking Indoors to Protect Children
Deemed a ‘triple threat’ COVID-19, RSV and influenza are actively circulating in all communities.

PORT HOPE, ON (November 15, 2022) – The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR District Health Unit) Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, is strongly recommending that residents within the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County and Northumberland County wear masks at indoor public settings, including schools and childcare centres, in an effort to combat COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“The focus has shifted from COVID-19 to the earlier than normal rise of RSV and influenza, where we are seeing higher numbers of seriously ill children than had been expected,” said Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health and CEO for the HKPR District Health Unit. “Therefore, I support and strongly recommend wearing your mask at indoor public settings, including schools and childcare centres. It’s our children, the very young and vulnerable, that require our collective action right now.”

As announced by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore during a press conference yesterday, COVID-19, influenza, and RSV are actively circulating across all communities within Ontario. All three respiratory illnesses are contributing to pediatric hospitals across Ontario dealing with an unprecedented surge of sick children in recent weeks. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto announced on Friday that it would be ramping down surgeries to redeploy staff to those areas.

The majority of those currently affected by RSV and influenza are children aged four and under who are not able to mask properly. By wearing a mask at indoor public settings, as well as schools and childcare centres, and if/when respiratory symptoms are noted, we can protect the most vulnerable in our community during this challenging respiratory virus season.

Children under five years of age are most susceptible to respiratory viruses, and by decreasing spread of viruses among the adult population, we decrease the exposure to young children. To help lessen the surging demand on our pediatric healthcare system, the HKPR District Health Unit strongly recommends the following preventative measures:

  • Wear a mask at indoor public settings, social settings and in schools and childcare centres
  • Children aged two to five years old should also wear a mask when supervised and if they can tolerate it
  • Staying up to date on vaccinations, including getting your flu shot as soon as possible
  • Screening for respiratory symptoms daily
  • Practice good hand hygiene and regularly clean high touch surfaces, which is especially important for RSV and flu viruses
  • Stay home if you are sick

“Vaccination against influenza remains especially important during this respiratory season,” says Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health, and CEO for the HKPR District Health Unit. “Children six months of age and older, pregnant individuals, families and caregivers with young children, healthcare workers and elderly, and those with underlying health conditions should get their flu shot as soon as possible.”

Locally, there are many ways to get the flu vaccine:

  • Dozens of pharmacies in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes can provide flu vaccine to anyone two years of age and older. High-dose flu vaccines for people 65 years of age and older are also available at pharmacies. A complete list of local pharmacy locations providing flu vaccines is available at www.hkpr.on.ca.
  • Contact your primary care provider to see about getting the flu vaccine. Children six months to two years old can only get their flu shot from a doctor, nurse practitioner or local public health unit.

The HKPR District Health Unit is providing immunization clinics for children under the age of five years who do not have a family doctor. Clinics are by appointment only. To schedule a time, call the HKPR District Health Unit at 1.866.888.4577, ext. 1507.

-30-

For media inquiries contact:

Ashley Beaulac, Manager of Communications, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1212, abeaulac@hkpr.on.ca,