Muir: Too early to change the masking rules - what's the rush?


By Tom Muir

March 17th, 2022



It isn’t popular to talk about masks and social distancing these days.

Everyone wants to see the pandemic declared over and get us to the point where we are dealing with an endemic and those are a piece of cake.

Tom Muir who contributes to the Gazette frequently focuses on just what it is we are dealing with and where the leadership is falling short.

I’m afraid I see too many cooks in the kitchen regarding Covid mandates, and too many splits of who has authority to decide.

Is this the time for the Medical Officer of Health to weight in with some comment?

I am particularly concerned about schools and the educational system, and have repeatedly expressed that concern. Now I find out from your message here that the City bylaw does not apply to schools. And also that the Regional Office of Health has authority, and could issue a Section 22 order, which could mandate masking in schools. Then, as well, you tell me the Medical Officers of Health at the Region is recommending lifting the mask bylaw.

So who has the responsibility to protect the children and the school system in this messy division of power? Regional Health has a conflict of interest between following orders that are “legal”, and the fact that something that is “legal” is not necessarily permissible, or morally justified in an ethical society, especially when the possible consequences for the most vulnerable in our society are known and are grave.

This conflict is very concerning as it raises questions of responsibility and accountability for a decision about children and schools – Who will be called to account for the decision and the consequences? Is the Board of Education responsible for this fiduciary duty of trust? If not, then why not?

I say again, it is just too soon to stop masking and other Covid controls in the school system right after all the interactions and mingling, and therefore increased virus transmission opportunities that will occur during school break. Several weeks are needed to see what happens. In addition, the City and Regional masking and other Covid bylaws, as you say, and I repeat –

“requires the wearing of masks or other face coverings within enclosed spaces open to the public, including:

  • City Hall and City facilities open to the public;
  • Burlington Transit;
  • Public areas of offices, retail outlets and malls; and
  • Inside common areas of apartment and condominium buildings.”

Is masking necessary for these children?

My point here is that enclosed public spaces are the areas of maximum transmission, and the masking is the first line of defence, then distancing, and this is an historical practice of public health infection protection.

Further, I say we need more time in general to consider lifting the masking bylaw because there is a lag in time to show what the health indicators are doing after the break, and in general.

I read this below in the Washington Post today, and it would do us well to heed the warning about the failure to be cautious in decisions with very serious consequences that we already know about very well. The whole article is worth a read in terms of what is going on with the virus.

“A surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe has experts and health authorities on alert for another wave of the pandemic in the United States even as most of the country has done away with restrictions after a sharp decline in cases.”

“Infectious-disease experts are closely watching the subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, which appears to be more transmissible than the original strain, BA.1, and is fueling the outbreak overseas.”

My bottom line is that someone has to be called to be responsible to fulfill the Board of Education duty as Trustees – with root of Trust – to protect the children and the schools from the risk of this inherent policy harm, as stated by many independent experts, and by the known ways of how the virus acts. This is not safe policy for children, teachers, schools, or parents. It is not stated by Ford to be a safe policy, but a personal choice about risk tolerance.

The children themselves do not have the wherewithal to make such an independent choice for themselves, and are at the mercy of the politics, and what you decide to do. The rest of us will be collateral damage.

In my view, whoever gets to decide, whether it is the Board or not, will be guilty of negligence of fiduciary duty if they just obey Premier Ford’s orders.

Tom Muir is a retired federal civil servant who writes frequently on public issues




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5 comments to Muir: Too early to change the masking rules – what’s the rush?

  • perryb

    well said Tom. Our entire governance infrastructure has been allowed to become a mish-mash of interacting missions which require multiple agencies to be involved, yet far to often they use this to ensure that no one is actually responsible when things go bad. Or even just to resist change rather than to take action. Or to take years to accomplish what should take days. We see it everywhere. Politicians and bureaucrats have no incentive to change, quite the opposite.So I suspect that Doug Ford is anxious to announce the pandemic is over so he can get on with convincing people his government should be re-elected.

  • Diane Knox

    Well said Tom. This Rush to Return is a ‘legal issue’ in waiting for every school administrator.

    As a former Educator with ‘duty of care’ at all levels, I know Children 4-18+ and Teachers need and want to be in School. And they have- with masks and rules in partially ventilated classrooms etc. since last Sept.. Furthermore, it helped that vaccines and masking for all was in place for the public they live in.( For Halton– I must say Testing/Vaccine was and still is a Challenge-Too few sites)- but we cared and we did our part.

    Now, Parents, Kids, Teens-those ‘belonging’ years- and the Grandmas and Grandpas are “ON YOUR OWN” – ( Ages 1- 90+)- Back to Work, Back to Play, Eat, Drink and be Merry,—
    AND- Back to School .on March 21,2022
    Why the Rush to risk the most vulnerable–, after the first travelling March break in 2 yrs? .May All the Doctors, Nurses, Educators, & School Boards in this Province say– NO NOT YET.
    Opening a School, Changing rules ,behavior, and Preventing ” teasing, bullying ,accepting”, is NOT turning on a Light switch at a classroom door on One day. Education is a process not an Event.
    Nor is it a Picture of the M of Ed.– standing before a Public School bus. File-Star Photo.
    Is he heading for a Full day in a Public School and will he wear a mask on a public transit bus?

    • Bob

      Seniors (full disclosure, I am one) are no more “ON YOUR OWN” than they were before. The mandatory mandate is being lifted, there is no mandatory unmasking taking place. ANYONE who wishes to wear a mask to protect them self is perfectly legal. Doug Ford himself has said he would wear one in the legislature when it resumes sitting. No one made going away for March break mandatory, that would have been the parents making those decisions.
      As for going back to work, that’s been going on since April of 2020.
      May all the doctors, nurses, educators and Boards of Education follow the science…after all that is what commentators like Mr Muir have been shouting for two years. That is until now when it doesn’t agree with their views, now all of a sudden unscientific Boards of Ed should be making decisions instead of the public Health Office?

      • Tom Muir


        Please note that my expressed concern is for the school system.This policy is not based on science. It’s Ford and his single appointed Officer of Health expert talking a narrative to tell us what they have decided we all have to do, and so you figure out your own risk.

        What really got me is that this policy demonstrates clearly that it ignores the key question I have; What is our moral obligation to children in schools regarding Covid?

        The policy is based on risk-taking and taking chances to get what they want. To me, it’s idiotic to put the entire school system back in operation overnight (Diane’s light switch), and it’s even worse if you think about it for a minute and not go to criticism immediately. I’m just telling you what it is.

        It’s a big lot of people in a relatively crowded space, all day, mostly congregate, constant interactions, with no public health protections anymore. It’s a huge assembly forced on everyone in every school and the system as a whole. Do they mask on school buses? What about the drivers? I don’t really think it could be worse..

        I guess you haven’t heard all the independent experts “shouting”, if you may, that dropping masks, distancing, and cohort grouping from all children going back to school en mass after 9 days of spring break, more than likely with more contacts, fewer or no masks and less distancing, unrestricted mobility, more transmission, more travel, and so on, is not science, and is too soon.

        This is the spatial and possible transmission reality that the science predicts will produce more cases and all the rest of any harm, spread around all over society (that is now all open with minimal caution and protections), that follows in number.

        So we know and see the news from all over the world (the US right next door) that this is what awaits statistically and based on science. It’s not safe for children, teachers, staff, or anyone in the family tree really. This is very bad risk management policy, and stubbornly doubling down in the dictatorial manner of Mr Ford putting it all on a single appointed “expert” , and dissing the Boards of Education, is worse. I ask, who knows about children and the situation better than teachers and Trustees? It’s their duty.

        I think it is central power crazy (ordered by 2 or 3 people who look to the single one they say is the “expert”) to refuse a 2 to 3 week delay, decided by the Board of Education, with City and Regional input, in banning all infection protections in schools. This ghosts moral obligation.

        Relaxing this in schools would satisfy me and possibly make the issue go away. Much much better than watching and waiting for this repeal, right now, show us how bad it is.

        2 or 3 weeks more, in schools, to dampen some of the infection effects of the spring break will not harm anyone, but will do only good, in my opinion.

  • Ed Dorr

    Well said Tom, totally agree