Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Where Does the Buck Stop on Mandates??

So Dr. Kieran Moore, CMOH, claimed he doesn't have the authority to institute mandatory masking in schools, and that boards can "consult with their local medical officer of health." It was later clarified that the CMOH can order masking in schools, or local health units, and it's not up to individual school boards. The Ottawa Citizen reported, 

Several medical officers of health have said they would prefer the province bring in mandates. Although they have the power to do so themselves under provincial public health legislation, they say it is difficult to enforce and makes for uneven rules across the province. Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, has said she would support local businesses and organizations that bring in mask mandates--something the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board did earlier this year after provincial mandates were dropped. It is again set to debate the issue. . . . On Wednesday, OPH (Ottawa Public Health) posted a message on Twitter saying it would "fully support any business/organization that chooses to implement a mask wearing policy." That leaves schools and post-secondary institutions to make their own decisions.

But BOY is it tricky to find out where responsibility lies on this!

Some say the boards have the right to make a decision on mask mandates above and beyond anything public health says, and the MOH can only intervene if an order was felt to be harmful. But people I've talked to at WRDSB think we definitely need public health on board.

It seems that, at the very least, school boards need the support of public health if not an actual directive, so I tried to find out local public health's position. I figured it would be unlikely that I could speak with the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, but surely I could reach someone in her office. There's no email to use, so I called the first number that came up in a search - 519-883-2000, but it's out of service. I had better success with another number: 519-575-4400. Our conversation went something like this:

"I'd like to speak with the Medical Officer of Health's office to discuss the possibility of supporting or directing school boards to implement mask mandates."

"Okay. If you want to know about bylaw fees, I'll have someone call you back."

I'll spare you the details, but eventually I clarified enough to be told that someone from the bylaw team would contact me about my mask issue. The bylaw team appears to be the only people possible for the general public to have a direct conversation with. And then I went through this email exchange from playing an old-school game of telephone:

"Any questions about mask requirements in schools should be directed to the individual school board; in Ontario, school boards and regional governments are separate entities, despite similar sounding municipal and school board names."

"Minister Lecce said that school boards can't impose a mask mandate without a directive from their local public health unit. Which Public Health unit do I contact to try to encourage a directive to our Regional School Board if not the Regional Public Health?"

"In that case, I will forward this to Region of Waterloo Public Health for their comment."

That part just took an hour, and now we're getting somewhere! About three hours later, just before the end of the day, I heard from an actual Public Health rep, who said that mask mandates are determined at the provincial level by the Ministry of Education in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

I replied with a link to the video set to start at the appropriate time:

"Today's presser made it seem that it was not under Dr. Moore's jurisdiction, and he said, specifically, that school boards can consult their local Medical Officers of Health for a directive. Is that inaccurate information?"

Then this morning I added,

"I should clarify that I'm a trustee-elect at WRDSB. I'm trying to get masks back in class, but it appears from what I've read that school boards can't impose mandates without a directive from public health or, at the very least, your support. As far as I understand, Ottawa-Carleton was the only board to have mandates last April to May because their MOH explicitly gave their support. This year, the Ottawa MOH made a public statement: "We strongly recommend wearing a well-fitted mask in any indoor and/or crowded public setting. We also fully support any business/organization that chooses to implement a mask wearing policy." Can we get a public statement from the Region of Waterloo Public Health? 

Is your (ROW Public Health) position in support of individual efforts by specific businesses/organizations to have mandates, or does it deny support in favour of waiting for the province to act in unison? Could you please let me know if you have different information about the process and links/attachment to any documents that say it's entirely up to Minister Lecce or Dr. Moore? The Education Act suggests that school boards can act to protect children above and beyond public health mandates, but it appears to me that nobody at WRDSB will act without explicit support from ROW Public Health. 

Thank you for your time on this vitally important issue."

The response from Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Medical Officer of Health, through the rep, was, again, that requirements are determined by the province, but added that the region supports schools as they "implement provincial guidance and requirements," which are basically nothing at this point. Our messages had cross posted, but the final response I received was just to suggest I speak with the senior team at WRDSB.

And we're back at the beginning!! The CMOH says it's on local public health and my local PH says it's on the CMOH - and won't clarify if they will create local directives or support individual mandates, only that they'll support us in implementing provincial directives. I'm hoping something is raised at the OCDSB meeting tonight, so we can learn from it whether successful or not. I left a final thank-you:

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate how quickly you've gotten back to me. It appears we're all trapped in a bureaucratic spiral because the WRDSB won't act without a Public Health directive (a section 22 of HPPA), and this local PH says it's up to CMOH, but the CMOH said, "I have no jurisdiction over the school boards . . . they can consult their local Medical Officers of Health." Looks like our region will continue to be left with zero ambulances available to respond and hospitals at capacity until someone will step up and say, The buck stops here! I'll absolutely be in contact with the senior team at WRDSB again, but they've already made it clear they can't act without public health on board. Thanks again, anyway, and stay safe out there!

My take on all this is that it appears that there's legislation that suggested EACH level of government CAN impose a "Masks in Class" rule, but none of them actually will

ETA: And now our Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones, just said "It's a personal choice to wear a mask." I read a thread once that sounded like a conspiracist arguing that this is all a happy accident that allows the government to take out the growing elderly boomer demographic that will cost so much money to care for in the next decades. The more I see things like this, the more I believe this is all some kind of cull.  And, of course, it's all just path to privatization. 

And, apparently this wave is being referred to as the Children's Wave. Survivors are witnesses. 

And further clarification, sort of, from reporter Erin Anderson
So, according to Anderson, local health units are able to issue mandates, but MY local health unit appears to have decided to just follow the will of the province. The upshot of all this: our school board can't do much more than recommend masks and support staff and students who want to wear them. 

No comments: